Mariners' position players can’t wait to start

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comFebruary 15, 2013 

PEORIA, Ariz. — Position players were not supposed to officially report until today but most of the Seattle Mariners have been here all week.

Outfielders Michael Morse, Raul Ibañez and Franklin Gutierrez on Thursday joined the group of early attendees, pushing the number of position players arriving early to more than 20.

It’s an impressive number. But will getting to spring training early – some as much as 10 days – help these position players this season? It’s not certain, but it can’t hurt.

Mariners management was more than pleased to see all the players putting in extra work.

“That’s all on their own doing,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “When you talk about all the kids that have been in here, it’s pretty impressive. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a camp in all my years that had this many position players in early.”

It’s not uncommon to see younger players who receive non-roster invitations to spring training show up early. It’s a way to show management some gratitude for the opportunity. Top prospects such as Nick Franklin, Stefen Romero and Carlos Triunfel have been in camp for more than a week.

And established players such as Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak have been in camp for more than a week as well.

“You even see veteran guys here early and that’s really big,” Smoak said. “There’s always a lot of young guys here early getting ready, but having so many older guys says something. It’s one of those things that as an organization and as a team, guys want to get ready to go for this season. Guys are excited about this year with the additions we’ve added. We want to get going.”

Seated in a golf cart watching position players warming up, general manager Jack Zduriencik grinned.

“Isn’t that great?” Zduriencik said. “Look at all those guys.”

Zduriencik and Wedge preach about winning the right way and developing a championship attitude. Showing up early is an example.

“It’s great,” Zduriencik said. “I think it sends a message to others that this is how it should be.”

Smoak, who lives in South Carolina, wanted to be comfortable when full workouts started. It’s an important season for him, and he wanted to get in some early work and show management how committed he is to being the everyday first baseman.

“You get here a week and a half early and it gives you time to work on things you’ve been doing in the offseason and get your body ready for when we start going. ’Cause once we have full workouts, it’s nonstop,” Smoak said.

Smoak knew a few teammates also planned to come in early, but didn’t realize how many.

“Guys are excited where we are headed as a team,” he said. “We know we are going to compete.”

SHOPPACH’S KNOWLEDGE

Kelly Shoppach’s impact on the team is already evident and it’s only been a few days.

The veteran catcher has taken control of the group of six catchers, offering advice, knowledge, encouragement and a few good-natured jabs.

Before Thursday’s workout, Shoppach showed a major league scouting report to young prospects John Hicks and Mike Zunino, telling them what to look for. Even Jesus Montero listened intently.

During the bullpen session, Shoppach was catching Erasmo Ramirez. After a few minutes, Shoppach noticed Ramirez was changing his arm slot ever so slightly on offspeed pitches. It was affecting the movement of them as well as tipping off hitters. Shoppach mentioned it to Ramirez, who made a few adjustments to correct it.

“He’s smart guy, a good baseball guy and a good worker,” said Wedge, who managed Shoppach in Cleveland. “He’s been around championship atmospheres and settings. He’s been around a little bit. It’s not just the other catchers. It’s the pitchers, pitching coaches and managers he’s been around. All those experiences are who you are and what you are about.”

SHORT HOPS

Pitching ace Felix Hernandez traveled back to Peoria from Seattle on Wednesday, but was excused from Thursday’s workout. He will have his first full workout today. … Catcher Ronny Paulino and pitcher Jhonny Nunez are still absent from camp because of visa issues. … Carter Capps had an impressive bullpen session. His fastball had good velocity and movement. “He certainly got Shoppach’s attention,” Wedge said. … First baseman/designated hitter Mike Carp was designated for assignment. The team is trying to work out a trade to get something because it’s likely Carp would be claimed if Seattle put him on waivers.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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