February 28, 2013 at 9:01 PM
Mariners doing what they need to in first week of Cactus League play
Pretty busy day all-around today. It began for me with a 6:15 a.m. PT rendez-vous with ESPN Baseball Tonight’s Buster Olney, who taped a sizeable portion of his daily podcast with me talking about the Mariners. Buster hit upon some big themes, including Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Felix Hernandez and all the veteran acquisitions this winter and what they mean. I did my best to analyze the moves and where some of these guys are at, so have a listen to the pocast by clicking this link.
Not too long after that, it was off to Peoria to see Felix Hernandez throw his live batting practice session to a group of four minor leaguers. As I told Buster on the podcast, the plan was to do some more work with Hernandez after today, then have him pitch two innings of Cactus League ball in a week — give or take a day or two. The Mariners are being extremely cautious with Hernandez so that he doesn’t fire all of his bullets in spring training, as he’s wont to do if somebody isn’t there to pull the reins in on him.
Anyhow, as you know, Hernandez threw 32 pitches for about 1o minutes. He’ll toss two innings once he gets into a Cactus League outing. For those worried, there is a full month to go before real games start. Plenty of time for Hernandez, Dustin Ackley and everybody else to be ready.
Once Hernandez was done, I waited around the field while the Mariners not going to Scottsdale for the Giants game took batting practice. I wasn’t so much interested in whether Brendan Ryan hit any BP homers off 65 mph pitching as I was getting the rare chance to pin down new hitting coach Dave Hansen. There’s a reason nobody has profiled the new guy yet this spring and that’s because he’s always in the batting cages or hustling off to a meeting. The guy works. Anyhow, I touched base with him earlier today and he told me we could chat onc was done. Raul Ibanez had told me an interesting thing about Hansen that I thought would make for a good story.
In the end I was right. Hansen was engaging and worth the wait.
As for the rest of the squad, they are 6-1 and playing good ball for the most part. I really like what Justin Smoak has done so far. Franklin Gutierrez is hitting with someauthority as well. We’ll just have to see how the rest goes once Ackley and Ryan get on the field more regularly.