Cactus League Game 2: Mariners “at” Padres

marc w · February 28, 2014 at 11:45 am · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Andrew Cashner, 12:05

Well, yesterday’s game was fun. Let’s do that same “Robinson Cano plays for Seattle” thing, add the same dash of spring training hype/excitement (“Justin Smoak spent a day with Cano and now he can *hit*!), and add an interesting pitching match-up. Ok, ok, Cano isn’t actually playing today, but he’s still wearing an M’s uniform – a fact that is still moderately shocking to me.

Last year at this time, James Paxton was a darkhorse candidate to make the opening day roster. He was coming off a solid season, and had finished strong after returning from knee surgery. He’d looked pretty good in the Arizona Fall League, throwing 94-95, and without the command lapses that had plagued him previously. So we were all pretty excited to watch his first few Cactus League starts. The Paxton that we saw *then*, one year ago, looked like a non-prospect. Batters had no trouble barreling him up, and his fastball velocity was down to 89-91. He looked like a different, much worse, pitcher, and thus it fell to Brandon Maurer to be the darkhorse candidate who actually grabbed an opening day roster spot.

He was better than that in AAA Tacoma in 2013, though he was still plagued by big innings. He’d look dominant through 4 innings, and then everything would fall apart in the 5th. He had middling results to go with somewhat more encouraging scouting reports, though his failure to get deeper into ballgames meant that the chorus predicting an imminent move to the bullpen grew louder and louder. Something happened, though, in the last month or two in Tacoma. Part of it looks like mechanical tweak, some may be rest and the return of some arm strength, but he was suddenly able to go 7-8 innings and maintain his velocity at 94-95 (or more), not 91-93. Very encouraging. His MLB debut was, if anything, even more encouraging.

I’m looking for velocity, movement (though Peoria’s pitch fx system is notoriously bad for inflated movement readings) and command. He’s only throwing 2 IP, so stamina’s not an issue yet. This season, Paxton’s being counted on as an opening day starting pitcher, so while he’s undoubtedly more confident, there’s a bit more pressure on him than there was last year. I’d love to know that the M’s understood what happened, and that the M’s were behind his late season surge in 2013. Today, more than most days, we could use the psychic balm of hope.

1: Chavez, CF (I’d literally forgotten he’d re-signed)
2: Franklin, SS
3: Kelly, 2B (we’re doing that weird thing where the back-up replaces the starter’s line-up spot in addition to his position, are we?)
4: Hart, DH
5: Montero, 1B
6: Saunders, RF
7: Romero, LF
8: Buck, C
9: Bloomquist, 3B

Ok, that’s…that’s a worse line-up than yesterday’s, and there’s no getting around that. But baseball is still fresh enough that you can find interest in it. Will Romero grab the last bench spot? Can Saunders finally make the leap from bad-to-mediocre-to-actually good?


11 Responses to “Cactus League Game 2: Mariners “at” Padres”

  1. Nate on February 28th, 2014 11:53 am

    Wow, that’s a pretty meager lineup. I guess if we’re going to wave the white flag from the get-go, we might as well do it in a charity game!

  2. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 11:56 am

    Spring training lineups – especially at the beginning – can be pretty odd. I was surprised how “normal” yesterday’s lineup was.

  3. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 12:09 pm

    Haha, I just realized – that’s Jesus Montero at first base!

  4. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 12:13 pm

    If Gameday is right, Montero grounded out swinging at a pitch that was about a foot and a half inside.

  5. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 12:37 pm

    Nicky is starting the cactus league with a bang!

  6. californiamariner on February 28th, 2014 12:46 pm

    Good job Nick build that trade value!

  7. nurse trident on February 28th, 2014 5:17 pm

    Furbush vs Quakenbush!

  8. Woodcutta on February 28th, 2014 10:36 pm

    Had a good laugh tonight when watching the Angels/Cubs game. Raul Ibanez was up and the Angels broadcasters talked about Raul’s drop off in production in the second half of last year and tried to blame his playing so much in the OF. Wait it gets better…next they discuss how Mike Scioscia is planning to use Ibanez in the OF THIS year. Wait it gets even better…the broadcast team then discussed an interview Ibanez had recently concerning last year’s drop in production and of course he didn’t blame his playing time as a factor but get this. He actually thinks he is a well rounded player. Talk about delusions of grandeur.

  9. LongDistance on March 1st, 2014 12:20 am

    Raul is beginning that long, hard process of becoming Anaheim’s Most Loved Baseball Player. That, anymore, is what he does best in whatever team he goes to. They’re going to learn to love him down there, the same way we did.

    As far as this lineup. I actually like it. It’s sort of the worst case scenario. Sort of like they’re saying, OK, what’s the most miserable thing that can happen, and let’s do it and see how it works. Sort of like one of those kooky garage\shop inventions my uncle used to come up with …

    It isn’t often that a man can see clearly into the future, but Montero should take a good look over across the pitcher’s mound, and who’s on third. Because, at best, that’s his future standing over there. Mr. Everybody/Nobody. Mr. Jack-of-all-Trades and Master-of-none.

    I still say they should let Willie pitch … and catch … And be maybe the first player since, like, 1870, to play every position on the field.

  10. Gibbo on March 1st, 2014 9:59 am

    Jake Elmore, just acquired by the Athletics, did it last year for the White Sox.

    The highly versatile 26-year-old accomplished a rare feat last season by appearing at all nine positions on the diamond. Even more rare is the fact that he both pitched and caught in the same game on Aug. 19.

  11. Westside guy on March 1st, 2014 10:32 am

    It’d be funny if a story came out of Anaheim’s spring camp about how Raul is taking Trout under his wing to teach him something or other? 😉

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