We’ve spent part of the morning watching the Mariners go through pitchers’ fielding practice and throw some bullpen sessions. Yes, that means spring training is officially underway.
Don’t forget, we’ll have the Felix Hernandez press conference at 2 p.m. PT today from Safeco Field. The Hernandez extension is obviously viewed as a coup by the Mariners organization and is good news for teammates who’ve come to rely on him over the years.
“To us, he is the best pitcher in baseball,” Mariners starter Blake Beavan said. “He’s the kind of guy you can go to for advice, he’s easy to talk to. He’s always been good to younger guys. That’s all you hear from guys on other teams who have gotten to know him, too. Having him on our team is whatwe’ve been built around. So, I think it’s good for Seattle to keep a guy like that for a long time to build around a franchise. He is the face of our team.”
It’s interesting to hear a guy like Beavan, who is 24, talk about Hernandez, 26, as if he’s so much older and wiser.
“I think I look at him as an older guy because I’m still inexperienced,” Beavan said. “Especially compared to him. He came up when he was19, he’s 26 now and about to be 27. He’s got six years in and he is a veteran whether he’s 24, or 25 or 26. I think everybody looks up to him as a veteran regardless of age.”
Before today’s workout began, I chatted with catcher Mike Zunino, the team’s third overall pick from last June, as he prepared for his first major league camp. Zunino arrived down here in Arizona on Saturday and spent a couple of days hanging out at the complex with some of his new teammates before today’s workout.
I asked him whether he felt nervous.
“Yes and no,” he said. “The guys down here have been really good. They told me if I have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. I’m just going to sit back, take it all in and learn as I go. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.”
Zunino had a busy off-season, capped by a solid Arizona Fall League performance. After that ended in November, he and his new wife –they got married right before the AFL began — took a few weeks off back home in Florida. He headed up to Gainesville — where he spent years at the University of Flordia — for a couple of weeks of training. Then, they headed to Tennessee to spend the Christmas holidays before he really settled back in to prepare for camp.
“It was nice to get a bit of a break after last year, but right now, I’m really just ready to go.”