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Most of the Mariners are now coming off the field after a second day of workouts here in Peoria. I had a chance to watch the catchers put through some blocking drills under the tutelage of catching co-ordinator Jeff Datz this morning. Blocking pitches became a big issue last season when Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero and John Jaso allowed a ton of passed balls and wild pitches to get by them.
Clearly, this is an important area for the Mariners to be focusing on.
The drills feature coaches firing a variety of pitches at the catchers — all at varying speeds — with the use of machines. There are situations given for when there is a right-handed or left-handed hitter at the plate and runners at various bases. The goal is for the catchers to not only block the balls the dirt, but to also get up in the correct throwing position.
Among some of the bullpen sessions I watched today was relief pitcher Carter Capps, who has a quirky delivery that allows him to “hide” the ball from hitters. Capps is somebody the Mariners could count on late this season if he continues to develop his off-speed pitches to the point where hitters won’t just be sitting on his 100 mph fastball. He made big strides in that area with the Mariners late last season and will be somebody to keep an eye on this spring.
On the Felix Hernandez front, he is flying back to Peoria today and will take part in workouts tomorrow. Mariners top amateur scout, Tom McNamara, had a busy 24 hours, flying in to Seattle for yesterday’s Hernandez press conference, then heading back out here to Arizona right after. McNamara will be on a 2:45 p.m. PT flight from here to California this afternoon for tomorrow’s launch of the college baseball season.
Yes, he’s excited about it.