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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

February 17, 2007 at 7:16 AM

Mariners’ King of Spring

Talked to Felix Hernandez this morning as he was getting ready to hit the field and throw another bullpen session. Seems the 20 pounds he dropped since I’d last spoken to him in Venezuela back in October (once again, that’s the FIRST TWO WEEKS of October for anyone wanting to make too big a deal of his off-season training habits) has — not surprisingly — made his workouts here a whole lot more tolerable. He finds it easier to keep up with pitchers during running drills and his PFP (fielding practice) has gotten much less taxing, despite the throw he sailed past the first baseman on Day 1. So far, he hasn’t noticed any real change in the fluidity of his arm motion or anything, but his bullpen session on Thursday sure made a lot of other pitchers look bad by comparison.
“He just threw the [heck] out of the ball,” manager Mike Hargrove told us this morning. “I don’t mean harder, the ball just came out of his hand easier.”
And that’s about as complicated as these spring throwing sessions should ever be in Week 1. For those of you who asked me how the team’s non-roster invites look on the mound, all I can say is that they appear to be in good physical shape. Anything else and I’d be talking nonsense because none of these guys are throwing all out or showing what they can really do just yet. And no one from the coaching staff is really paying attention to anything other than to make sure a pitcher isn’t laboring or trying to conceal an injury.
Don’t expect to see second baseman Jose Lopez playing in any Cactus League games the first week or two. I know we told you he’d be ready the other day and the team apparently still expects this, but they aren’t about to risk anything. This is similar to the approach being taken with Jose Guillen, who will be the DH rather than the right fielder early on.
No, I’m not sounding any alarm bells just yet. The most important part of spring games for position players are in the final three weeks and that’s usually enough time for a hitter to get his timing down at the plate. It’s different for pitchers, who usually need the entire spring and the first couple of weeks of the regular season to get their arm strength up. So, a pitcher missing the first two weeks of games would be a concern. Not so much for hitters.
All of a sudden, the Mariners are getting some love around the game. Many of us already saw this one posted the other day, but we’ll put it here anyway because that’s pretty substantial coming from a national outlet.
I’m among those who believes this division is there for the Angels to take. Other than that, I saw significant subtractions from the Rangers and A’s. I’m not ready to put the Mariners past either of those teams just yet, since I have to see how the new Seattle additions look as camp progresses. A whole lot still has to go right for the M’s to move up in the standings. But I will say this, the Rangers lost a lot of offense, not only with the departure of Gary Matthews Jr., but the very underrated Mark DeRosa — who had 40 doubles last season. Never mind the home runs, that’s 84 doubles lost between Matthews and DeRosa alone. Throw in catcher Rod Barajas and the figure climbs to 104. This is not the same Texas offense as in years past and it is conceivable to believe Seattle could have the most lethal bats in the division.
But…and this is a big but…I will have to monitor the progress of both Guillen and Jose Vidro as camp progresses. I’m especially interested in seeing what kind of shape Vidro arrives here in.
In case you missed this transaction among the many this winter, here’s an update to our ex-Mariners beat. And here’s what one retired ex-Mariner is up to. Who can forget how he got to Seattle? And the tall guy the Expos threw in along with him?
OK, players are taking the field. Time to go pay attention and learn something. I’ll get back to you all as the day progresses. Thanks for the time!



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