We debuted our Talkin’ Baseball segment for 2011 on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show earlier today. You can listen to it right here.
Lots of praise being thrown around the clubhouse over tonight’s six-inning, three-run performance by Michael Pineda. First off, Pineda and relief pitcher Jamey Wright were the first set of pitchers this season to prevent the Texas Rangers from hitting a home run.
The M’s didn’t hit any either. So, the Rangers still lead 13-2 in that department.
But really, as we’ve said all along, what really matters is the development of some prospects into a bigger young core than what this team had coming in. We’ve seen Justin Smoak take some positive first-week strides (though his hitting streak from last year ended at 14 tonight) and now, with his debut, Pineda has taken a positive first step.
Pineda said after the game that his teammates had told him to keep his composure and just make sure he left his pitches down against the fearsome Rangers lineup. And Pineda did just that for the most part.
Of the five hits he gave up, four were for extra bases, but that’s to be expected against the Rangers. The thing he didn’t do is walk a bunch of guys. So, when the extra-base hits came, they were driving in one at a time instead of two or three.
Three of the five hits were by lefties, including a triple and two doubles, so, you know there are going to be some issues there going forward. But still, if he can contain a strong right-handed lineup like this the way he did, he should be able to get enough righties out during games to compensate for the occasional lefty lapses.
You’d hope anyway.
“Those are pretty good hitters, but I was working at throwing the first pitch for a strike,” Pineda said. “Then, I was looking to mix up my fastball, changeup and slider.”
There was some talk about manager Eric Wedge’s decision to allow Pineda to stay in there and face left Josh Hamilton with one out and first base open in the sixth inning of a one-run game. Here’s what Wedge had to say about that.
“Well, you’ve got (Michael) Young and (Nelson) Cruz and (Mitch) Moreland too — he probably saw Michael better than anyone tonight — coming,” Wedge said. “So, if you do walk that guy, you’ve got to be perfect with the next two, otherwise you’ve got Cruz and Moreland coming up.
“So, he had made pitches before. He did a really good job getting to 2-2 in that situation, too. Just left the change-up up a little bit.”
On the triple by Moreland in the second inning, Michael Saunders climbed the center field fence, only to have the ball actually strike the wall in front of him.
Saunders said he simply ran to where he thought the ball would be. But when he looked up, it wasn’t there.
“I was playing him straight-up a little bit, to pull,” Saunders said. “He hit it well, kind of tailing away from me, so I just put my head down and ran. I peeked up one more time to get an idea of where the ball was going to hit…and jumped up trying to make a play on it. All I heard was that it hit the wall.”
Saunders did his best to help make up for it in the seventh inning, coming through with a key base-hit off left-handed reliever Darren Oliver to make it a 3-2 game. One of the things Saunders hopes his new batting stance will do is help him hit lefties, so this rates as a bit of a victory.
“He was actually throwing two-seamers in on me and I was looking for a cutter off Oliver because that’s how he’s attacked me in the past,” Saunders said. “I was just trying to see the ball up over the plate and stay back and try to stay up the middle with my approach. He got in on me a little bit, but I was able to get it out there.”
So, that’s progress.
The offense? Again, with the bases loaded and one out, Chone Figgins hit a soft liner/popup that was caught in the infield. Milton Bradley then flew out to center on a play Julio Borbon made look tough by misjudging the ball initially. Borbon had to make a diving catch, but the result was the same.
A little short.
But with Pineda, it’s about the future. And tonight, his future looks bright.
“He should feel real good about it,” Wedge said. “Facing this ball club the way they’re swinging the bats right now, and the way he pitched and really controlled the ballgame…you couldn’t really ask for a better first ballgame.”