The video above is not from today’s intrasquad game. It’s yesterday’s video of Felix Hernandez throwing a live batting practice session. Took me two days to get it uploaded because of technical issues, but is worth the wait given the camera angles and proximity.
Also, you see the same amount of hitting in that video as you would have watching today’s intrasquad game, won 3-1 by Team Ichiro over Team Jack Wilson. Hey, I don’t come up with the names. Go bug the Mariners about it.
Anyhow, the biggest thing of note today, for me, were the five stolen bases over five innings by both teams combined. Miguel Olivo nearly hit a triple off Josh Lueke, settled for a double, then stole third with a headfirst slide.
“He can run for a catcher,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s bitten us a few times over the years.”
Wedge was pleased with the aggressiveness shown. But he admitted nothing really stood out over the course of the game, other than the players finally getting their feet wet.
In the clubhouse, closer David Aardsma was seated next to Dan Cortes for a long, extended chat. Cortes looked real nervous out there today, going only 2/3 of an inning and giving up a run on a hit and two walks. Olivo had to try to calm him down several times before the M’s finally pulled the plug on the inning because Cortes was nearing his pitch limit of around 25.
Lueke didn’t do too well, either, taking the loss after allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
Wedge was asked whether it was a case of both pitchers trying to win a job in the first intrasquad game and maybe coming off a bit jittery.
“I don’t think that’s kind of out of the norm,” he said with a chuckle.
Milton Bradley got on base twice with a single and a walk and stole two bases. Michael Saunders did exactly the same. Wedge didn’t get everyone an at-bat, but all position players made it into the game.
Tom Wilhelmsen, on the comeback trail at age 27, had a walk and two strikeouts in his lone inning of work.
I chatted with Michael Pineda after he got through the first inning with just the double allowed to Justin Smoak.
If you remember pre-game, pitching coach Carl Willis told me the team isn’t too concerned with Pineda’s change-up because he can get enough differential when he cranks his fastball into the high-90s.
But Pineda told me he’s still working to cut down on the speed of his change-up. He’d like it to be at 87 mph rather than 89 mph or 90 mph as he’s been known to throw it. Pineda said there were even times it his 91 mph.
How’s he going to do that. He’s trying to get better rotation on the ball and also cut down his arm action just slightly.
“Just a little bit slower,” he told me.
Pineda can’t slow the arm action down too much, or hitters will notice and be able to differentiate between when he’s throwing a change-up versus a fastball. Right now, he has near idential arm movement for both pichers, leaving hitters unable to tell what’s coming.
But you need to have a good 10 mph difference between your fastball and changeup for it to throw a hitter’s timing off.
The difference can be when a fastball gets up into the high 90s. That requires so much bat speed to catch up to that a hitter can’t cheat as much and sit on a change-up — even one that’s 91 mph.
But when the fastball comes in at 95 or 96 — since not all of Pineda’s fastballs reach the high 90s — that 91 mph changeup may look almost exactly the same and enable a hitter to crush it. So, it’s a work in progress.
As we mentioned, he’s also got to work on improving his slider, to give him the three-pitch arsenal he’d need as a major league starter.