PEORIA, Ariz. For the second day running Monday, the Mariners got big home runs from outfielders who figure to start the season in the minor leagues.
The more of these the Mariners see, the faster the men who hit them are likely to be on track to the big leagues for power-strapped Seattle.
First up was Greg Halman, the Netherlands-born slugger who broke a 2-all tie in the fifth inning. Halman, who blasted 33 homers last year for Triple-A Tacoma and got nine September at-bats with Seattle, mashed a monster homer to left-center that gave Seattle a 4-2 lead over the San Diego Padres.
The Mariners, whose win Sunday was given life by a two-out, two-run homer by Double-A prospect Carlos Peguero (23 homers for West Tennessee) in the ninth inning, again had bullpen issues, though. The lead degenerated into a 5-all tie by the ninth inning when Johermyn Chavez launched a missile in the same general direction as Halmans.
The resultant homer stood to be the game-winner, but lefty reliever Chris Seddon hit a batter to open the bottom of the ninth and the Padres got a run on an infield grounder to tie the game at six. Since the teams played 10 innings Sunday, neither side wanted to burn more pitching, so the game was called.
Seattles pitching has been shaky with few exceptions, one of which was the two innings turned in by the first Seattle reliever Monday, David Pauley. He threw two shutout innings when every other pitcher employed by manager Eric Wedge allowed at least one run.
Chief among those was starter Doug Fister, who got a two-run lead thanks to a two-run double by outfield candidate Gabe Gross in the first. Fister was scorched by a two-run double high up the batting eye in center field in the bottom of the first. Fister then threw a 1-2-3 second inning.
“In the first inning, the ball was up a little bit, Fister said. “(I was) trying to find the release point again and just get back into the swing of things. Its just a matter of constantly making adjustments and staying focused on body positions and finishing and location.
“There are some adjustments that need to be made and rust that needs to be kicked off.
You could say the same for most Seattle pitchers two days into the Cactus League. Wedge admitted as much.
“Today was similar to (Sunday), Wedge said. “Youre seeing guys trying to find their rhythm and their release point.
Chavez, who hit 32 homers while playing for Class-A High Desert in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the U.S., is a Venezuelan who has great strength and a nice swing. He came to Seattle along with Brandon League in the trade that sent Brandon Morrow to Toronto the winter before last.
“You love to see a young man like that, Wedge said. “He didnt just pull the ball, he drove it out up the middle.
Halman was given all nine innings to show what he could do. In addition to the homer, he played flawless center field, which wasnt easy because of the nasty Arizona sun. The sun was brighter than it was warm and thus suitably tricky for anybody trying to track a fly ball.
NOTES: 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez will get his first game experience of the spring in a simulated game later in the week. Jason Vargas is also likely to be on the same simulated game program. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is due to get his first start of the spring Tuesday against Texas in Peoria. Wedge says there is still no word on the result of tests done in Seattle last week that medics hoped would get to the bottom of the stomach problems hes had off-and-on for a year now. Jack Cust, not the swiftest man on the roster, impressed Wedge by scoring from first base on Gross double in the first.