Cactus League Game 1, Holy Crap, Really? A (sort of) Game?

marc w · February 27, 2014 at 11:59 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Man, time flies when the Seahawks are marching towards football immortality. Hey, baseball games are back to being a nearly-daily thing we can talk about, analyze, and read too much into. I’ll be honest: I’ve missed it. The M’s have been bad, more or less, for a decade, and there’s still a glimmer of excitement about a scrimmage in Arizona. In February.

Erasmo Ramirez starts today, and he starts with renewed confidence. Confidence borne of a revelation he had in Venezuela this off-season – you don’t have to throw 95, the voice told him, just throw strikes and take it easy. For those of you who’ve followed Erasmo’s somewhat unlikely journey to the fringes of the bigs, this ‘revelation’ is somewhat ironic: for years, he was the undersized kid throwing in the 80s who just never walked anyone. By the time he hit AAA (I saw his first AAA start and was completely blown away by the velocity he’d added), that wasn’t the case. He had legitimate weapons, but he sacrificed a modicum of consistency for them.

I’m not sure if Erasmo’s injury problems in 2012 and 2013 were the result of overthrowing, mechanical issues or rotten luck, but I’d submit that staying healthy is job 1 for Erasmo this year. “Undersized righty” is a headwind Ramirez faces and has faced for years. “Injury-prone, undersized righty,” is the kind of thing that gets you sent to the pen or, worse, to the Astros.

All of that said, no one should forget that Ramirez was a very successful MLB starter down the stretch in 2012. His change-up was remarkable, and his fastball could hit
95 in a pinch; this wasn’t a guy throwing 87 and praying for mis-hits. Whether due to injury or supremely bad advice, Ramirez went away from his change in favor of fastballs and a slider last year, and the results weren’t pretty. I and others talked about the lack of separation in movement between his FB and CH, but his problems were deeper than vertical movement: Erasmo never had a feel for his pitches, and his Zone% went down, and thus walks and HRs went up.

He was at his worst with no one on. Like Iwakuma, he may be guilty of over-challenging when the stakes are low. And like Iwakuma, his success with men on gives some hope that real improvement is a relatively small change away. This is an awfully long intro for a Cactus League game in which Erasmo will pitch two innings. But Ramirez is key to the M’s pitching depth in 2014 because Ramirez IS the Mariners’ pitching depth in 2014.

Brandon Maurer was quite bad in 2013, and had his back ‘seize up’ in warm-ups two days ago. Scott Baker may need to throw significant innings this year – something he hasn’t done since before his “oops, I guess you need Tommy John surgery” er, surgery in early 2012. Danny Hultzen won’t pitch in 2014. If Baker and Erasmo can’t go, then ( today’s other scheduled pitcher) Blake Beavan stands between the M’s and the void. But Beavan looks suspiciously like the void draped in an extra-large M’s jersey, so…..*

Line up:
1: Almonte
2: Seager
4: Morrison
5: Smoak
6: Saunders
7: Ackley
8: Miller
9: Zunino

*. Larry Stone had a funny column about not heeding the siren’s song of Cactus League optimism – about Munenori Kawasaki’s bat , Maurer’s poise, or the M’s dominant offense. I laugh because I was sort of taken in by Beavan’s mechanical tweaks last year.


12 Responses to “Cactus League Game 1, Holy Crap, Really? A (sort of) Game?”

  1. Westside guy on February 27th, 2014 12:05 pm

    Just paid my $20.00 for the MLB At Bat subscription on my iPad, and am listening right now!


  2. Westside guy on February 27th, 2014 12:49 pm

    Wow, obviously Smoak and Ackley have made great adjustments and are going to be HUGE in 2014!!! And Morrison is going to provide TONS of RBIs!!

    (hehehe please realize I am just having some fun – I’m just thinking what we’re going to hear from the media types after this game)

  3. unkrusty on February 27th, 2014 12:55 pm

    I certainly understand the facetiousness, but Morrison actually COULD get a bunch of RBIs hitting 4th or 5th every day with some combo of Ackley, Seager, Cano, Hart hitting in front of him. Because, you know, RBIs.

  4. Westside guy on February 27th, 2014 1:00 pm

    If that happens, I will be really happy – because that means a bunch of guys are getting on base!

  5. Mekias on February 27th, 2014 2:02 pm

    Yeah, I liken Ramirez to that dorky girl with the cool personality who wakes up one day and she’s suddenly hot. Best of both worlds. He throws strikes and locates pitches but also now has the 95 heater to make all the boys sit up and take notice.

    I think Erasmo has a great chance to be our third best starter this year.

  6. Westside guy on February 27th, 2014 2:37 pm

    Ah, it’s good to have baseball back…

  7. akampfer on February 27th, 2014 7:43 pm

    Who says the Ms don’t have a Strassberg. We have Hultzen, hope they get him on his feet someday.

  8. Zero Gravitas on February 27th, 2014 10:21 pm

    OK I just settled in and looked at this lineup and….I actually would watch that lineup, out of curiosity. Wow. That is not a terrible lineup by Mariner standards!

  9. LongDistance on February 28th, 2014 1:15 am

    I love Cactus League. So many non-stories. I was laughing at the following gem. An exchange between Cano and Smoak, as reported by Ryan Divish:

    Cano: What’s your average?
    Smoak: .230
    Cano: You can do better.

    Uh … then we’re treated to a story about Cano showing Smoak a batting exercise, using a close in net on the other side of the plate to force him to keep his hands inside and use his lower body and legs more. Sounds a hell of a lot like the old Little League exercise of putting the knob of the bat against your belly, with the other end against a chain-link fence (or tree, or pole, or whatever) and then taking swings within that radius of space).


    And oddly enough … Cactus League under way and the season looming an all … I actually feel that glimmer of hopefulness creeping back.

    And, who knows? Maybe Smoak will have benefited.

    Why not? Why the hell not? Go Ms?

  10. MrZDevotee on February 28th, 2014 8:59 am

    Great to see some ball being played… And, Spring or not, anytime the Mariners score runs, real or imaginary, is a good day to me. Go M’s!

    Interesting tidbit while trolling the interwebs for Mariner info…

    Maybe there IS something to the Mets/Nick Franklin smoke…

    Why are the Mets interested in Nick Franklin? His numbers last year with the Mariners would have given him the 10th best season by a short top in Mets history… With Jose Reyes representing 5 of the others.

    By player, his season would have made him the 4th best SS in Mets history (behind Reyes, Bud Harrelson, and one season of Rey Ordonez).

    This leads me to think the M’s are actually doing something pretty smart… Letting Franklin “battle” for the starting SS job, when it’s probably more about showing he can play the position because a SS is more valuable on the trade market than a 2B. When they wanted him to stick, they moved him to 2nd, when they want to trade him, they’re moving him back to his “natural” position.

  11. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 9:00 am

    Yeah, spring training is great. I do laugh at the stories because I know, in my heart, what the result (non-result?) will be; but I love the atmosphere, even from 1200 miles away.

    But man, it’d be great if Cano’s nets could work like Bard’s rubber bands…

  12. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 9:14 am

    Ugh. Taijuan Walker is being shut down for a week because the bursa in his right shoulder is inflamed.

    But it’s only for a week… right? right?

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