By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – The Mariners received more good news on the pitching front Friday, as three pitchers on the mend continue to make progress.
Taijaun Walker said that everything felt great the day after his return to the mound, so he will throw a 40-pitch bullpen session and mix in his breaking ball on Sunday.
Stephen Pryor threw a 25-pitch live batting practice to Endy Chavez and Cole Gillespie. Pryor mixed in all of his pitches, and there was clearly some rust after missing nearly a year of throwing. His breaking ball command was not there, but the hitters commented that the fastball looked good.
Last but not least, Hisashi Iwakuma will see the hand doctor on Tuesday and could be cleared to begin throwing again. It will be very interesting to see how they build him back up.
Another pitching change
In addition to the injury news, the Mariners have once again made a change with their probables. Scott Baker was originally scheduled to start against the Angels Sunday in Tempe, but he will now make his start in a Triple-A game and Roenis Elias will get the start against the Angels.
Without having an opportunity to talk to the pitching coach or manager about this, I would guess that there are two reasons for this move. The first would be as we get closer to the start of the season quite often teams hold back starters from facing teams they will face early in the season. Baker has already faced the Angels twice this spring, and if he makes the rotation as the third starter he would face them again in the second week of April.
Another reason for the move may be to get Elias more innings as well. While he has been a starter in the minors he has pitched only in relief in camp. He has been stretched out to three innings, however, and they may want to give him more. This will be an interesting start.
There was a surprise round of cuts today with Jesus Montero, Xavier Avery and James Jones being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma and Chris Taylor re-assigned to minor league camp. McClendon has given favorable reviews of Avery and Jones this spring, and Taylor is a prospect that will push at shortstop at some point soon. Montero obviously needs work on multiple fronts but as a right-handed power bat I would never count him completely out.
Plenty o' notes. Felix is scheduled to throw four innings with Erasmo Ramirez to follow and throw five. John Buck is catching Felix in a game for the first time. He has caught bullpens and a sim game with him over the last couple of weeks. Corey Hart makes his return to the lineup and his debut at first base. Stephen Romero is in right. I am not sure how much of a look he is getting but he has the ability to catch an eye. The bat has heated up – and it just so happens to be of the right-handed variety – and he has looked better in the field than expected.
Runs, runs and more runs
Seattle leads all teams with 130 runs scored this spring. They are averaging 7.27 runs per game.
Just for fun, mate
Rick Rizzs caught up with former Mariner and current Diamondback Ryan Rowland-Smith on Thursday. If you were a fan of the Hyphen you will appreciate this interview.
Even more fun
In the players' parking lot there is the usual assortment of what Jose Guillen used to call "fancy cars" and big trucks, one of which has caught just about everyone's eye. Pictures are not allowed in that area but a Twitter follower gave me this link with pictures of the custom paint job. We have all wondered who the truck belongs to, and Thursday morning we found out when we saw Corey Hart jump out of the driver's side. I asked Hart about the truck in my pregame interview before the game against the Rockies. Here is what he had to say.
"My wife gives me the one tattoo a year and I was trying to come up with something creative for my truck. Basically it is a tattoo for my truck. It's a full apocalypse scene. There's fire and there's horses and demons. I wasn't trying to stand out but it worked out that way. It's a fun truck to have because it brings up a lot of conversations."
"Truck tattoos" tend to do that.