Logan Gilbert’s spring debut highlights an otherwise short, sloppy day at Tempe Diablo.
Scott Servais made a difficult choice today, on the back of a record fourth straight tie, to avert completing the dark ritual laid out before him, summoning a creature so monstrous and unholy that would surely devastate the land. Servais summoned all the courage within him, walked over to Angels skipper Joe Maddon, and requested they play six full today, no matter the score, no matter the cost. They reached an accord, and so it was that the Mariners ensured their reality-shattering streak of ties would come to an end in today’s 6-2 loss.
The intrigue of the day for M’s fans was seeing the first look at RHP Logan Gilbert, the team’s top pitching prospect by the appraisal of most evaluators, ourselves included. Nothing today changed appraisals on Gilbert one way or another, but it was encouraging seeing him miss bats and confound good hitters, and also work through it when he got into trouble. His first inning wen near-flawlessly, pumping fastballs 92-95, 93 on average as he was throughout the day, and making contact-gremlin David Fletcher look foolish on his slider.
— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) March 7, 2021
Unfortunately, as you can tell from that clip, the Angels home camera angle at Tempe Diablo is so wildly off-set as to be almost useless for video-based pitch evaluation, but it’s nice to see big league hitters swinging and missing at Gilbert’s off-speed, which has often been marked as good-not-great and seen as a possible limiter. Luis Torrens had a great day behind the dish, with some good frame work and several excellent blocks like the one in that clip above as well.
For good measure, Gilbert froze Mike Trout looking on a fastball on the outside corner, then got a weak groundout from Shohei Ohtani to conclude things. Did Gilbert have Ohtani for strike three on a knee-buckling slider at the knees that sent Ohtani shuffling backwards? I certainly thought so.
Inning two started off worse, with a double by Albert Pujols back-to-back with a bloop double by Justin Upton for the lone run of the day off LoGi Bert (pronounced like Stephen Colbert, you get it). Gilbert rallied well with a strikeout of Dexter Fowler, a sharp lineout by José Iglesias, and his fourth and final strikeout of the day against Taylor Ward. All four strikeouts can be seen here:
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 7, 2021
As I said at the top, nothing jumped off the page from Gilbert. He was where we’d expected him velocity-wise, with the typical easy motion, ludicrous extension, and pitches that play up because of his length and release. To the best of my viewing, we did not get a single changeup, the pitch Gilbert has been working on beefing up reportedly to help befuddle lefties in particular, but gauging movement on the Angels camera was a fool’s errand so I could have missed one. All in all, no walks, four strikeouts of four big leaguers, hard not to be pleased.
The offensive highlight was one swing, for Ty France facing Angels starter Jaime Barria. It appears Ty France considers the Cactus League an extension of the Pacific Coast League and is clobbering accordingly.
The rest of the game was dry fare. Non-roster invitees Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider had a tough time in their innings of work, each yielding a run to put Seattle in a 3-2 hole after four innings. Sewald was more impressive, catching a bad break on a hit and run single where he thoroughly jammed Mike Trout but saw the dinky doinker drop in behind second base with the defender moving to cover the steal. Fortunately, we also got to see Jake Fraley show off his cannon.
Steckinrider, for his part, struggled with command and put himself in a hole with a pair of walks and no strikeouts. The hit and run paid off again for Anaheim as a possible double play ball instead was a fielder’s choice with everyone safe, but Steckinrider walked in a run subsequently. In the 5th, Aaron Fletcher also struggled, giving up a trio of singles to left-handed hitters and a sac fly, but did control the damage there.
Seattle’s second run came in reasonably comical fashion, as Beef Boy Cal Raleigh swatted(?) a triple(??) past left fielder(???) Justin Upton. The veteran’s route, dive, and subsequent retrieval of Raleigh’s lofted fly ball was closer to quarter-hearted than half. Feel free to google deceptive speed, this clip will not come up, I promise.
José Marmolejos scored from first, having singled the at-bat prior, but the M’s closed up shop offensively from there. Seattle reached base just five times in total through the six frames. Jake Fraley continues to chase his first hit of the spring, while Donavan Walton, Sam Haggerty, Kyle Lewis, Luis Torrens, and Braden Bishop also went hitless today, though Haggerty drew a walk. Julio Rodríguez got a single PA in the final frame, but struck out against Angels rotation contender José Suarez.
But they promised six, and six full. So with the game in hand, Seattle put Rule-5 pick Will Vest out to get some reps and hold the Angels to a mere 4-2 win.
Vest’s fastball and changeup looked solid enough, but he hung a slider that stayed un-slid and even against Phil Gosselin that won’t (or, I suppose WILL) fly. Tomorrow the Mariners shall hide their faces from the world once more, facing Cleveland at noon on radio only with Yusei Kikuchi as the first returning starter in Cactus League play. And hey, maybe there will be another fun B game too.