I never know quite what to make of spring training games and how much to take away from the end result. But this is been a tough week to follow Mariner pitching. On Sunday Dillon Overton pitched a few innings against the Rangers and gave up a couple of unearned runs. On Tuesday the Dodgers dismantled Chris Heston. On Wednesday it was Cody Martin dismembered on the mound by the Angels, with a side of Nick Vincent’s home run sauce. On Tuesday, Drew Smyly threw a B-game against minor leaguers, and followed up his superb effort against Venezuela in the WBC with a game of unpretty practice, surrendering four runs on seven hits over five innings.
Every time I see a week like this I get flashbacks to the closing days of the 2015 Cactus League. Pitchers regularly slaughtered and thinking, hey, it’s just spring training, they’ll be fine. The M’s are supposed to win it all. It’s in all the papers.
So it was nice for the Mariners to get some positive pitching news on Thursday. First, and most obvious, was a sterling outing by Felix Hernandez. against the Giants. Six innings, one hit, no walks and five strikeouts on 73 pitches. Yes, it was not complete Giants lineup, but the King worked efficiently, moved the ball around settling for weak contact over protracted battles with hitters for the strikeout.
“Good mechanics, good pitches, around the zone, trying to finish hitters. It was really good,” Hernandez said.
It was clear manager Scott Servais also appreciated Hernandez’s efficient approach, preferring effective pitches in the strike zone to induce soft contact to the King’s past preference for the strikeout
“He likes striking them out like every pitcher does, but sometimes being more efficient certainly helps out,” Servais said.
If seeing Felix as the pitcher all fans hope he will be in 2017, the M’s also got some much-needed good news on the injury front. Tony Zych appeared in his first game against Rangers minor leaguers on Thursday. He had a 1-2-3 inning. Though it still seems unlikely, according to MySportsNW reporter Shannon Drayer, that he’ll be ready for the season opener on April 3rd, his performance yesterday puts him much closer.
The M’s added on to the good news with the successful performance by Steve Cishek, pitching off a mound for the first time since his hip labrum surgery. Cishek is not likely to get into a game situation before spring training breaks, but his first time out was considered a success.
Yes, it’s all just spring training, but I’d rather see good pitching than terrible pitching.