It wasn’t the best day for the Mariners’ Big Three. Danny Hultzen was scratched from his outing today with a mild strain of his right hip flexor, and then Taijuan Walker had a rough outing in the Mariners’ 16-6 romp over the Rockies.
Walker’s first inning was just fine as he retired Colorado on nine pitches. But in the second inning he was greeted on his first pitch with a home run by Nolan Arenado, who was sitting fastball and got one belt-high. It was Arenado’s fourth homer of spring and third in his past three games.
From that point on, it was a struggle for Walker, who couldn’t locate his fastball and also had issues with his breaking stuff. By the time the inning was over, he had given up three walks, three singles and two more runs, though he avoided major damage by getting Michael Cuddyer to ground out with the bases loaded for the final out.
“I just wasn’t locating my fastball,’’ Walker said. “I wasn’t putting it where I wanted, and I was getting behind in the count, so they just jumped on the fastball, and I walked a couple of guys.”
Was that frustrating?
“Yeah, but I can’t get too frustrated. It just makes it worse. I just tried to stay calm and try to throw strikes,’’ he said.
Walker knows the key for him is getting his curve and changeup over the plate.
“Anyone is going to hit a fastball when they see it constantly,” he said. “I’ve got to keep working ahead in the counts and get my offspeed over for strikes.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he left Walker in the game to give him a chance to work out of trouble.
“It should have been a good learning moment for him, and he did,’’ Wedge said. “He’s very fluid, very easy with his delivery. The ball jumps out of his hand, but he’s still a young pitcher working to get better.”
Jon Garland, on the other hand, is a veteran pitcher working to regain his feel after missing all of last season following shoulder surgery. Garland, who worked two scoreless innings in his second outing, said it’s coming back.
“It’s starting to get better. Just the ball in the hand, it’s hard to get a true feel out here, because your breaking ball’s not going to break as much, with that thin air. You can’t grip it as well. It’s starting to feel a little more comfortable each time. Even in the bullpen sessions in the back, it’s starting to feel a little more comfortable every time.”
Garland worked out of jams in both his innings, stranding two in each frame with timely ground outs via his sinker.
“I felt rushed in my mechanics a little bit,’’ he said. “But overall, I’m still keeping the ball down. If they’re hitting the ball into the ground, the ball’s moving. It’s missing the bat in the right places. So I can’t be too upset.”
Wedge said of Garland, “I thought he looked good. He had to work, which is probably a good thing, but he was down again. That’s what he does. He makes pitches when he has to. I’ve been impressed with his pitchability and obviously the experience he has. It shows out there. He’s been very consistent this camp.”
Casper Wells, believed to be battling Jason Bay for the final outfield job, helped his case with a five-RBI day that included a triple, double and single. Wedge said he’s been impressed with Wells’s shorter stroke.
“It’s obvious what kind of outfielder he is, and he’s a good athlete, and he’s worked hard to shorten up his swing,” he said. “We’ve seen that this spring.”
Wedge believes a shorter stroke will help Wells cut down on the peaks and valleys that have marked his Mariners’ career.
“I think it will, and I think it will allow him to see the ball better. It puts him in a better position to hit more consistently, and that’s what we’re trying to get these guys to do.”
So far so good as the Mariners raised their spring average to .310 with their 10th straight win.
“We have some proven veteran big-league hitters in here, and they’ve obviously made a big different,” Wedge said. “But we also have a lot of young kids on the rise, most of whom have had some experience, whether it be last year or last couple of years, and they continue on the path. That’s what you like to see.”