Another day, another pounding of Joe Saunders in this 8-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Saunders says he’s fed up with this long spring training, has never cared about results here and can’t wait to get the regular season started. He had trouble with his mechanics early on in thos one, but eventually righted things and looked a bit better towards the end.
Perhaps of greater importance to the Mariners today was seeing Kameron Loe toss multiple innings for the first time this spring. Loe went two scoreless frames after taking over from Saunders in the sixth, logged three more strikeouts to up his spring total to 15 — over nine innings — and also notched a double-play with two on and one out in the seventh.
“He needs to be able to do that,” Wedge said of the double-play generated by the sinkerballer. “We wanted to stretch hi out to two innings tday, so it was a good day today. There are going to be situations in that type of game, that type of inning, where you need to be able to get two outs with one pitch and he was able to do that today, it was good.”
Loe is known more for his grounder-generating ability than hefty strikeout numbers. But he’s used a vastly-improved changeup this spring — the story behind that in tomorrow’s print edition of our paper — to up his strikeout numbers while he waited for the movement on his sinker to improve.
The Mariners are a bullpen with a whole bunch of hard-throwing, one-inning type guys. But they’ll need at least a few arms that can throw multiple innings since they don’t plan to carry a long-reliever.
“We’ll make sure we have at least two or three guys there who can pitch multiple innings,” Wedge said. “I think it’s important that we do have that. We have some guys serving in multiple roles for us, which is a good thing, too.”
The Mariners have Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush who can throw multiple innings from the left side. But the right side isn’t quite the same, with Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor both profiling more as hard-throwing, one-inning types. Tom Wilhelmsen has gone multiple innings before, but teams don’t like to do that with closers, especially early in the season.
That’s where Loe can clearly add value to this bullpen. The high strikeout total — against only two walks on his ledger — is almost an added bonus to what was expected.
We saw Endy Chavez make his first appearance for the Mariners and he delivered a two-out double in the ninth when the game was already pretty much done.
Wedge talked about Franklin Gutierrez and how he’s trying to keep him healthy this spring. Gutierrez, of course, led the game off with a home run on the day’s second pitch. I asked Wedge how much having Chavez around in Class AAA will help ease his mind in the event Gutierrez goes down and the team has only Michael Saunders around as a center fielder once the season starts.
“You always have to have depth,” Wedge said. “You always have to have insurance, be prepared in case something happens. We’re trying to take an optimistic viewpoint with it, with Guti. For him to be healthy. But we also want to make sure we are prepared.”
Back to Saunders, he got hit hard and often again today and also walked four batters in his five-inning stint. His spring ERA is now up to 11.57 but he’s had tough times in spring training before and isn’t about to panic.
“I feel like I’m right on track,” he said. “I felt like I was a little tired today. My arm feels good. I’m just going through that point in this nice five-month long spring training where it’s time to get it over with and done. I’m looking forward to April.”
Of course, if Saunders goes out and pitches normally in April, all of this will be forgotten. It’s why nobody worries all that much about veterans in spring training as long as the fundamentally positive signs are there.
Remember, the dry air in Arizona can make it difficult for pitchers who aren’t the hardest throwers to get the type of movement they need. The Mariners continue to say Saunders is OK and will be fine once the season begins.
“Honeslty, you never want to give up hits or runs and stuff like that,” Saunders said. “But I don’t really focus on results. I focus solely on how my body feels, how my arm bounces back and I’m happy with where I’m at right now, that’s for sure.”
Saunders joked that he’s tired of “early morning alarm clocks” and a spring training schedule made longer this year because of the WBC.
Kendrys Morales hit a monster three-run homer in the third inning off Wade Miley to give the Mariners a 4-1 lead at the time. It was the 50th homer this spring by Seattle, which actually took it to southpaw Miley pretty good with their lineup today.
A week from today, we’ll be in Oakland. The Mariners have a few decisions to make this week. Should be interesting.
“It seems like this spring training has lasted a long time,” Saunders said. “I’m just looking forward to April and to getting out there in games that count.”
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