Yesterday the Mariners beat the Chicago Cubs 12-9 in Cactus League play on the Cubbies’ Mesa home field. Robinson Cano hit three home runs in a four hit/one walk day to drive in seven of the Mariners runs. Designated hitter Adam Lind and shortstop Ketel Marte each chipped in a couple of hits on the day.
Cano is having a fabulous spring. Following a year in which he struggled between the lines and with injuries, he’s slashed .370/.408/.848 with six home runs. It’s spring training and the Cactus League, but in an off season in which pundits have suggested his decline period has begun, and former coach Andy Van Slyke melted down on radio and questioned his clubhouse influence, his desire, and his ability to continue playing the game, no Mariner player has more to prove than Cano. Ryan Divish and Bob Condotta have a great article about the Mariners second baseman in this morning’s Seattle Times
On a day that saw Cubs pitchers chased out of their bullpen and into the Mariners’ by a swarm of angry bees, Mariners starter James Paxton was likewise stung by Cubs hitters. In only four innings, Paxton allowed nine hits and seven runs. More telling, Paxton also allowed three walks and struck out nobody. Paxton is in competition with right-hander Nate Karns for the fifth starter spot. In his last two major league starts, sandwiched around a minor league start, Paxton has allowed 14 runs on 15 hits in only six innings. In those games he’s struck out only two.
The battle for the fifth starter spot was to be one of the key competitions of Mariner spring training. That Karns has likewise struggled at times has not made manager Scott Servais’ and general manager Jerry Dipoto’s jobs any easier. Karns pitches today and then each will have one more start before the regular season begins. Hopefully the M’s won’t have to throw their hands in the air and count “eenie, meenie, miney moe . . .”
Though Chris Taylor remains in camp, it seems pretty clear that Luis Sardinas has won the utility job as the Mariners sent Shawn O’Malley to minor league camp. Citing O’Malley’s excellent hitting and base running, Servais also shared the Mariners need for shortstop depth.
“That’s the one position he’s probably not quite at the same level as some of the other guys at this time, we feel,” said Servais.
Sardinas leads the team in at bats with 54 and has slashed a surprising .333/.379/.556.
It appears the battle for the right-handed platoon is shaking out as well. Rumors yesterday had Jesus Montero cleaning out his locker and spending time with family, while Dae-ho Lee was added to the 40 man roster. Sunday was the opt-out day for Lee if the Mariners didn’t make this move. Montero, out of minor league options, has struggled this spring, hitting .237/.259/.289. Lee, the big Korean signed from the Japan League, has at times struggled with major league pitching, but not been overpowered. He’s also shown that despite his size he is nimble around first base and is a good base runner. Though Lee is still competing with Stefen Romero, the latter has been slowed by a back injury after getting off to a hot start. Both players have minor league options. News Tribune’s Bob Dutton suggests this morning the Mariners may begin the season with an 11-man pitching staff, allowing them to carry Romero as an extra right handed hitter.
Finally, the M’s continue to shrink the pile of pitchers in camp. They signed veteran Joel Peralta to the 40-man roster. This was not a surprise as they cope with a plethora of bullpen injuries. Joe Wieland was sent to the minor league camp to work on becoming a starter. Wieland is on the 40-man roster. Relievers Justin DeFratus and Casey Coleman were outrighted to minor league camp. Dutton reports the M’s have interest in one of three Padres right handed bullpen hands.