Mariners manager Eric Wedge oversees stretch by Mariners pitchers and catchers at spring training in Peoria, AZ.
Felix Hernandez is in the house, chatting up teammates and clubhouse attendants as the Mariners head into their third day of workouts here in Peoria. We’ll speak to Hernandez when he’s done working out this morning — he’ll just play catch, no bullpen sessions.
I caught up with another pitcher who could be joining Hernandez in the rotation at some point. Danny Hultzen is one of the charter “Big Three” members from Seattle’s minor league trio of arms — James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are the others — and got the furthest of any of the young hopefulls last season by making a dozen starts in Class AAA.
Seattle’s so-called “Big Three” minor league pitchers — Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton — will likely be a less-hyped story this spring.
Unfortunately for him, the AAA call-up is where he ran out of gas.
“I just couldn’t throw strikes,” Hultzen said. “I had no idea where the ball was going. You can ask anyone I played catch with — I couldn’t hit them in the chest when we were playing catch. I have no idea how that happened or why that happened. I think it was…just being tired.”
The AAA numbers speak for themselves: a 1-4 record, 5.92 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 43 walks in 48 2/3 innings. The 10.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings was a positive sign he still had stuff to overwhelm AAA hitters. But the walks are an indicator that, yes, he really had no idea where his pitches were going to wind up.
An interesting side note to the “Prospects Game” that people love to play every winter — staking their claim to the Next Big Thing — is that there will always be somebody cast aside in favor of the new flavor of the month. Hultzen isn’t exactly Vinnie Catricala when it comes to one year’s big hype turning into the following year’s pumpkin. But nor is Hultzen as shiny and new to some sideline pundits as he once was. You hear words like “mid-rotation” or even “back end” guy associated with his name now, barely a year after he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
It’s ridiculous, of course.