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September 25, 2012 at 6:13 PM

Michael Saunders a late scratch after wife gives birth to baby girl

The Mariners had listed Michael Saunders as their starting right fielder tonight, but he’s been replaced by Eric Thames after his wife gave birth to a baby girl earlier today in Colorado. Saunders had left the team after Sunday’s game but was still in sort of a standby mode as of today before the birth happened.
No word on a name yet. I guess Mike Bard is already taken.
Anyhow, there was some pre-game activity for Erasmo Ramirez, tonight’s starter, as he gave a long interview in the dugout to a TV reporter from his native Nicaragua. Most starting pitchers shun interviews the day of a game, but Ramirez seemed to be enjoying his moment in front of his countrymen.
I chatted pre-game with relief pitcher Stephen Pryor about his improved ability to hold baserunners. Pryor was terrible at this skill when the Mariners drafted him out of Tennessee Tech. He’d often take up to two seconds to deliver a ball to home plate — an eternity in the majors.
Now, he’s nearly shaved those times in half. Not only that, but he’s also gotten better at varying the looks he gives to baserunners before delivering a pitch. The trick is to keep the runners guessing as to when you’re going to pitch it to the plate and when you’ll throw over.
By varying up his looks over to the bag, Pryor keeps the runners off-balance.
“In college, I really wasn’t focused on it too much,” said Pryor, who had 100 mph fastballs to get him out of jams regardless of where the runners were. “In low-A ball, I began focusing on it more. Before, if you had one or two out, it was always just focusing on the hitter and trying to strike them out.”
That doesn’t work as well in the majors. In fact, the Mariners made it a priority throughout their minor league system last year — at the insistence of new manager Eric Wedge — to have their pitchers work on holding runners.
“I think the big thing is being able to mix times and looks as well as being able to work on that quick throw to the plate without losing power,” Pryor said.

How does he manage to do that?
“For me, it’s about keeping my weight locked on the back side and driving my hips towards the batter,” Pryor said.
In fact, Pryor told me the motion felt similar to doing a leg press in the workout room. Trust me, he’s been in a gym a few times.
Pryor said it took him until the middle of last season — when promoted to Class AA — before everything started to click. At that point, he said, he hads the foundation of what to do physically to hold runners and just had to work on the mental aspects of it.
Wedge likes what he’s seen from Pryor and some others now that they’re in the majors.
“It’s a big deal,” Wedge said. “We did a real nice job with it in our minor league system as well this year, which will help them out when they get here. With Pryor, it’s nice to have a young pitcher that has that squared away. (Erasmo) Ramirez does a nice job with it.
“It’s not just being quick to the plate,” Wedge added. “It’s varying your times and varying your holds. Just trying to keep them off balance and not get too predictable. Not get into a rut, or a routine.”



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