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March 18, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Mariners facing tough decisions and uncertain weather forecast

It’s about 10:15 a.m. in Peoria as I type this, and we still don’t know if a game will be played today.
The storm did indeed come in last night, dropping some rain — and it remains wet and cloudy and cool outside. For now, a 1:05 p.m. game against Colorado remains on, though there is no lineup yet, the team waiting to see the conditions before deciding who to play.
So while we wait, I figured I’d pass along some outtakes from the interview I had on Saturday with Mariner pitching coach Carl Willis. That interview helped form the story that ran in Sunday’s paper on the battle for the final three spots in the rotation. But as always, there’s lots that doesn’t get into the paper.
So here’s some more of what Willis had to say:
On if anyone in the back end of the rotation is beginning to separate themselves: “Yeah I think so. Obviously we still have some decisions to make and I think we see ourselves kind of leaning in certain directions, but right now I’m praying it doesn’t rain tomorrow and Monday — that’s huge. It’s getting there and the process is working but it’s not complete yet.”
On how soon they need to make those decisions: “In an ordinary world we would not (have to make them until the season begins), but really with the Japan trip and how things are aligned by Major League baseball concerning our roster, we do have to make those decisions when we go to Japan, we’ve got to know our 28 guys that are available to play in Japan but also our 25 guys. We can’t go there with a guy who is not on the roster and add him to the roster when we come back, so if we have to add someone to the roster we have to do that by the 28th. Can call that muddying the waters or whatever, but we have to have a clear decision by the 28th.”
On Hisashi Iwakuma’s progress: “I’ve seen his stuff progressively get better. I’ve seen his fastball get better, his command get better. You know, as far as the game last night I just thought at the outset, the first few hitters he didn’t mix his pitches very well — fastball, slider. Everything was close to the same speed, not enough change of speed. He has a curveball, maybe use it a little bit more. I thought once he started to mix that in he started to get better results, started to get more mis-hit balls, so I do see him making obvious progress in the right direction.”
On the performance of pitchers not making the decisions any easier: “They have (made it difficult) and they are difficult decisions, and while difficult decisions aren’t fun, it’s what we want. If the decisions are easy that probably speaks to a lack of depth or lack of the quality we have in camp and obviously we have quality people so it’s tedious but they are good decisions to have to make.”
On Blake Beavan so far: “I think in Blake’s case he had success in the Major Leagues last year, he had some struggles as well, but I think the confidence he built in himself seeing he could compete at the highest level, he really did a lot of hard work over the winter and it’s evident here — he really came in here ready to go and he’s been nothing short of outstanding. I’m not saying he’s Felix, but for where he can fit into a rotation and what he can do he has given himself every opportunity to make this club and that’s all we can ask of him — it’s been good.”
On if some pitchers still having minor league options plays a role in decisions: “It’s always a factor. We like to make it as little a factor as possible because obviously you want to break with your best club. There are times it comes down to maybe it’s better for certain individuals that while he has performed very well there is still something he can do to finish it off and it’s easier to do that at the minor league level than the Major League level. But as far as a roster decision, as a staff we try to not let that factor in. We try to get our best guys and then (general manager) Jack (Zduriencik) and those guys, they work the roster out for us or in some cases sometimes it just can’t happen. We just want to break with our best club.”
On Hector Noesi’s performance so far: “I tell you what, I watched a lot of video this winter when we acquired him in the trade, and I was very impressed seeing him in person — I see a lot more arm than I thought I was seeing on the video, a lot more life on the fastball, a good changeup and two distinctly different breaking balls, so there is a four-pitch mix and all off it with a very clean, efficient delivery. So there is stuff there and there is pitchability there so we are very excited about what we have seen so far.”
On having to make cuts on Saturday: “They are never fun, regardless if it’s early in camp or late in camp. Obviously the longer you stay the more difficult the conversations are because guys this late have more of a chance and you feel strongly about them and it’s like those difficult decisions sometimes are gut wrenching but they are decisions that have to be made. So yeah, it’s not a fun day.”
Also, make sure you saw Jerry Brewer’s column today on Vinnie Catricala.

Comments | Topics: Hisashi Iwakuma


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