On stepping into, and out of, the spotlight
Welcome to today’s Mariners Spring Training game recap. Please silence your cell phones out of respect for our performers. When you’re ready, I’d like to direct your attention to the stage, where our tech team is working hard to illuminate the key elements of the game for your edification.
Note: the Mariners played a Diamondbacks team this afternoon made up mostly of minor-league players, as Arizona’s big league team plays an exhibition game against the Guardians tonight. As a result, we’ve decided to stage this recap with Mariners players only. Shoutout to Diamondback pitcher Mitchell Stumpo, who wins best name of the game and also fell on his butt attempting to field an infield hit today.
[Curtain opens on a stage lit only by a downstage right (audience left) spotlight. In the spotlight stands a man whose curly hair sticks out from under his ball cap. He stares off into the darkness in stage left.]
Marco worked six full innings in today’s game, giving up two runs on three hits, 0BB, 5K. He had an out seemingly instantly after the start of the broadcast, striking out the first batter on three pitches. After a 1-2-3 first inning, he gave up a solo home run in the second, but it wasn’t until the fourth that the Diamondbacks hitters really made him start to work. Since the M’s offense was absent until the late innings, the first third of the game flew by.
Across his six innings, Marco worked fast, made several great defensive plays, and looks ready for his first regular-season start on Sunday against the Twins. He had nice movement on his off-speed pitches in particular and stated in a dugout interview after he’d finished his outing that he felt pleased with his stuff in anticipation of that game. In the same interview Marco was asked about his curveball; he mentioned that he’d been working on improving that pitch in this particular game, and it’s that pitch with which he hit a batter in the 5th as he was working on commanding it.
[Cross fade: stage right spot dims as upstage right spot appears, focused on three men standing in a line.]
The final three innings of the game featured one reliever each: Diego Castillo, Andrés Muñoz, and Matt Festa. Castillo bamboozled several D-Backs with a wicked slider, gave up a couple of hard hits, and struck out three batters in his inning. Muñoz had a good outing as well (I would have liked to see his velocities but alas, not in Peoria), and gave Abraham Toro an opportunity to show off his outfielding. Festa struck out two in the 9th for the save; no complaints.
[The stage goes dark for a moment, giving the stagehands time for a hasty set change as we shift from the pitching to the batting portion of our offering. A wide pool of light appears upstage left, in which stand a cluster of men holding bats.]
To your right, you now see most of the Mariners starting lineup standing in some embarrassment at their weak showing. After Adam Frazier [a man in the middle of the clump raises his hand to the brim of his cap] singled on the first pitch the Mariners saw in the game, the M’s didn’t get another hit until the 6th. Ty France was swinging hard at a lot of pitches he couldn’t make contact with, as at times were Mitch Haniger and Jesse Winker [the three men closest to the back of the stage nod solemnly] The main offensive highlight belongs to two performers not yet lit, but please give a round of applause to several other players who contributed offensively in the late innings. First to JP Crawford for his 8th-inning single that made David Sheaffer’s home run a 2-runner, which gave the Mariners the lead! And please also recognize Steven Souza, Jr., for his 8th inning home run, as well as Axel Sanchez for his impressive triple in that inning and Billy Hamilton for knocking him in.
We know Souza needs his moment to shine, since he inserted himself into several of the dugout interviews that featured heavily on the tv broadcast today. He first made his presence known as a makeup artist during Gilbert’s interview:
— SEA Munknd (@munknd) April 4, 2022
Later, he tried his hand at set design by throwing sunflower seeds at Marco during his interview, which has been a specialty of his at previous venues as well.
[Stage fades to black.]
Of course, all eyes today were on Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ top prospect whose spot on the opening day roster was officially confirmed this morning.
[Suddenly, centerstage is illuminated, the light reflecting off the shiny, shiny sunglasses of the person occupying the stage.]
You couldn’t wipe the grin off his face on the field or in the dugout this afternoon. Though Julio’s game today was nowhere near last-Thursday caliber, he had an excellent at bat in the fourth, making the pitcher work by fouling off three times before drawing a walk. It’s good to see that patience, since we know he can do the shiny stuff. Julio also hit a sharp single into RF on a good pitch away, demonstrating further discernment that bodes well for his transition to the majors.
In another dugout interview highlight, we got to see this effusive and glowing Scott Servais, speaking about this morning’s call to Julio:
Scott Servais on breaking the news to Julio Rodriguez pic.twitter.com/DyRh7alnxw
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) April 4, 2022
What a grin, right?
[Lights fade out, leaving the stage dark again.]
On Julio Day, I find myself thinking about Jarred Kelenic. Jared grew up in the spotlight, floundered as soon as he found himself in the Big Spotlight last season, and then started to find his feet in the last months of the 2021 season. Today, rightfully, the spotlight belongs to Julio, and there’s a distinct possibility it will for years to come. It’s confirmed today that Kelenic is not the primary young star-potential hitter on the M’s opening day roster; what does that mean for him and the way he plays? It would be hard, I imagine, for any 22-year-old to watch a younger peer debut and know that, if that peer succeeds, his success will be publicly contrasted with one’s own struggle the year prior.
[Slow fade up on a spotlight in the far downstage left corner of the stage. A young man sits on a chair looking at the baseball in his hands, and then looks out at the audience.]
My primary takeaway from today’s game, strangely enough, is hope and pride in Jared Kelenic. In the second inning, Kelenic drew his own patient walk in a long at bat, making the pitcher work (which most of his more experienced peers did not do). He swung at very few balls out of the zone today. In the 7th inning, with JRod aboard, Kelenic took the first two pitches of his at bat for balls. I wrote in my notes “JK will accept a walk, he’s not trying to knock in JROD on the first pitch, good for him.”
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 4, 2022
My favorite part is the high five at the end. JRod and Kelenic sharing the stage, enjoying the game they’ve each fought to succeed in. Celebrating with the knowledge that as of today, they’ve both made it.
[Fade to black.]