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February 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Doug Fister gets the Cactus League opener next Wednesday

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The Mariners ran so many drills at quick intervals today that players were getting lost hustling from field to field. In the photo above, you can see what it would look like if you were a pitcher covering first base and Mike Sweeney was flipping you the ball.
We’ve got some news for you: Ian Snell and Jason Vargas will throw in the intrasquad game on Monday, then Ryan Rowland-Smith and Sean White will go Tuesday. They’ll be followed by a bunch of guys after that.

On Wednesday, Doug Fister will get the start for the Mariners in the Cactus League opener against the San Francisco Giants (no, I don’t have a clue who is starting for SF). Vargas will go on Thursday against the Padres in the annual charity game. Both matchups are at Peoria Stadium.
Felix Hernandez will throw a simulated game on Thursday. He’s been backed off a bit and won’t start a Cactus League game until the following week. The team only wants him throwing about 25 innings down here and this apparently helps him keep that on-schedule.
Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session today. He’ll have a side session Tuesday, then a simulated game on Friday that will last two innings. The idea is to have him ready to start a game by March 10.
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Rowland-Smith threw some live BP to hitters who once again tracked the ball rather than swinging at it, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said: “I thought Rowland-Smith threw the ball good, looked real good.”
That’s some positive news for a Mariners team that needs Rowland-Smith firing on all cylinders early and often to get a solid start to their season.


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We talked earlier about those “Axe” bats that Jay Buhner is down here helping a Federal Way-based company to promote. Jack Hannahan tried one of them in the cages today and says he’ll attmempt to use it in one of the exhibition games down here to see if he likes it in live competition.
“It’s a big-time different feeling but it’s a great concept,” he said of the bats, which have handles shapes like axe handles. “It feels weird, obviously, because there’s no knob to it, so the first couple of swings it feels like it’s going to fly out of your hands.”
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But Hannahan added that he adjusted quickly and that “it’s good wood, it’s nice hard wood.”
Caught up with Dustin Ackley moments ago as he came off the field after doing extra work with shortstop Jack Wilson and the coaches on double-play balls. This was the first real extra work they’ve had Ackley do down here, as he adjusts to playing second base.
“I’ve been working out for a while now but it’s always been with coaches,” he said. “The only thing really big for me now is just getting out there with other players.”
Ackley said he picked Wilson’s brain about positioning and where he likes the tosses to come on 4-6-3 double-plays. He even asked him about the glove he uses.
“Anything I could think of, I asked him.”
Wilson, by the way, is sporting a very visible scratch on his forehead courtesy of those new brim caps the Mariners are wearing for spring training. Some of the caps have rough, scratchy material on the underside and the team is replacing a handful that players have complained about.
“With some of them, anytime you pull them off, or wipe sweat off your forehead, they get you,” he said.
Another guy doing a lot of extra work down here, as we told you yesterday, is former No. 1 draft pick Josh Fields. He had mechanical problems for much of last season when he got away from some of the legwork that made him such a success for the University of Georgia. Fields is working on keeping his feet tighter and less open in order to generate more force when he throws.
Back at Georgia, he was throwing 95 mph. Last year, he was stuck at 91 or 92 mph and feels a lot of it had to do with his mechanics.
“I got really out of what I do best,” he said.
Part of that was due to his being a first-time professional and feeling some of the pressure to succeeed that went with that. All it takes for a pitcher at this level is some minor change in delivery and everything about his game can get thrown off.
Fields told me he’s a lot more relaxed this spring, knows more of the routine here and the players and is working hard to focus on the more minute aspects of pitching. David Aardsma was out there working alongside him today after the regular workout was done. Aardsma told Fields how much he benefitted last year from some of this extra “drywork” and how the simple changes he made took his career to a different level.
“I appreciated hearing that,” Fields said. “Becasue it shows you what can happen if you put the work in.”
Don’t forget Geoff Baker Live! coming up at 6:00 p.m.

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