This being the spring, the goals when a pitcher takes the mound are a little different than the regular season, when the task is to win at all costs.
On Wednesday morning, the Mariners’ projected No. 2 starter, Jason Vargas, took to the hill to face minor leaguers in an intrasquad game, the goal mostly to get his pitch count up in the 90-95 range and continue refining his money pitch, the changeup.
Vargas got the first task done, throwing 94 pitches in 6.1 innings, about the earliest he has ever thrown that many. It’s a necessity to get stretched out a little earlier this year, though, with the pending trip to Japan — Vargas is scheduled to start the second game on March 29 against the A’s, hoping he’ll be able to do so without any pitch count limitations.
As for the second goal, the results were a little more mixed.
Vargas allowed two earned runs and one home run (a solo shot), to outfielder James McOwen, who spent last year in Class A and Class AA. He also allowed eight hits, one walk and struck out five in facing 27 batters.
“I was trying to throw more strikes with my changeup and trying not to get barreled as much as I was,” Vargas said. “But they swung the bats good and hit the balls hard, so that’s a good sign for us.
“Obviously they are in Double AA for some reason because they have some talent, so I didn’t figure I was going to go out there and walk through them. They swung the bats good anybody up there with a bat is dangerous.
“. … I was throwing pitches that I felt like I would usually get swings on or even aggressive takes and I wasn’t, so they were able to make me throw other pitches that I need to for strikes and sometimes they capitalized on them.”
Such results, though, always have to be measured against the eccentricities of spring — Vargas had to get four outs in one inning, for instance, when the defense was told to stay out there for another batter so he could get his work in. Vargas also said the emphasis on working on his changeup led to him to throw more of them than he usually would.
“There were definitely some times where obviously I didn’t feel like I was throwing my changeup as much for a strike so I would throw it back-to-back trying to get that feel,” he said. “And in a game I would be trying to get them out as soon as I can. Not that I wasn’t trying to get them out but at the same time I was trying to get something dialed in, too.”
Vargas said he will pitch again in five days, again throwing 90-100 pitches or so, and then take basically 10 days off before the start in Japan (though with a simulated game in between so he will get his regular work in).
Below is a little bit of video, taken from behind the fence, of Vargas pitching: