Talk about advance planning: With the Mariners in Oakland on their first road trip of the season, manager Lloyd McClendon decided to avoid giving Athletics hitters extra looks at his top pitchers. So Hisashi Iwakuma will pitch a simulated game against minor leaguers Thursday instead of facing the A’s that day. Felix Hernandez will pitch a simulated game Sunday against the Dodgers for the same reason.
“I just don’t want them (Iwakuma and Hernandez) facing teams we’re going to play early,” McClendon said. “I don’t like doing that. Any type of edge we can get by not having them face (familiar foes) early is good. They just need to build up innings. I don’t think they’re trying to make the club.”
Iwakuma tossed two perfect innings in his Cactus League debut Saturday, throwing 16 of his 22 pitches for strikes.
The Mariners face the Dodgers in a three-game series in Los Angeles April 13-15.
Felix makes spring debut
Hernandez worked two scoreless innings in his spring debut, and Dustin Ackley went 3-for-3 with an RBI, but the Rockies batted around in the fifth inning en route to a 9-3 win over the Mariners Tuesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, AZ.
Hernandez faced six batters in two innings, allowing one walk and inducing one double play. He needed 18 pitches to collect the six outs.
Seattle led 2-0 after Ackley notched a two-out RBI single in the third, and Chris Taylor had an RBI groundout in the fourth.
In the fifth, Roenis Elias was touched for a pair of runs, and Dominic Leone (0-1) absorbed most of the damage as the Rockies, aided by a pair of errors, sent 11 men to the plate and scored seven runs.
The Mariners (4-4) and Rockies play again Wednesday at Peoria Stadium. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled to start for Seattle against Rockies right-hander Christian Bergman.
Cutting the work load
McClendon said this week that he plans to limit second baseman Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager, both All-Stars last year, to 150 or fewer defensive starts in 2015. Cano made 150 last year while Seager made 157.
“Robby (32) is at the point now where he’s not going to play 162 games anymore,” McClendon told The News Tribune. “I’d like to see (Seager) in the 150-range as well.
“Quite frankly, I played (Seager) too much down the stretch, but I had no choice. (Willie Bloomquist) was down.”
Bob Dutton of The News Tribune breaks down the position battles with special emphasis on shortstop (Brad Miller vs. Chris Taylor) and the No. 5 starter (Taijuan Walker vs. Roenis Elias).
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports that former Gonzaga standout Tyler Olson is a strong candidate to nail down the second left-handed reliever spot in the Mariners’ bullpen.
The Mariners missed the 2014 playoffs, but they posted a profit of $11.6 million last season, according to figures submitted by the team to the Public Facilities District that oversees Safeco Field’s operations.
Good thing about this year’s spring training is that everyone is relatively healthy, especially Kuma who was inconsistent (for him) last season. A good start can mean everything for the club, especially with playing so much of the AL West to start the season.
Very smart for Mac to limit his starters, especially Iwakuma (who’s got a lot of miles on his arm, as is usually the case with pitchers from Japan, and he wore down noticeably last year). BTW, I’ve never been so impressed with Happ that I wouldn’t make it a three-way battle for two slots in the rotation between him, Elias and Walker.
I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll see 90+ wins this year, but the pitching’s going to have to be at least as good as in 2014 while Seager and Cano will need their teammates to produce more in the order more than they have. There’s a ton of potential here and last year may have been the ’68 Mets redux, but a lot will have to go right to make it a pennant-contending year. I’d be happy with a playoff berth, even a play-in game.