PEORIA, Ariz. - There are seven catchers in camp with the Seattle Mariners this spring, and that may not be enough to produce two the team is happy with by opening day.
Rob Johnson, coming off surgeries to both hips, has had a setback after a baserunning drill Tuesday and won’t play before Monday at the earliest. Will he be ready to play regularly in April? The team isn’t certain.
Rookie Steven Baron, 19, is here to listen, learn and catch in the minor leagues.
Adam Moore is a rookie with six games of big-league experience.
Given all that, the team and general manager Jack Zduriencik brought in journeymen Josh Bard, Eliezer Alfonzo, Guillermo Quiroz and Luis Oliveros.
On Thursday, Bard was behind the plate when hard-throwing Brandon League was charged with two wild pitches, both on split-finger fastballs, one of which set up a San Diego run. Neither was an easy play, and neither was made.
“We asked Brandon, and he said both pitches were away,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.
A day earlier, Quiroz dropped a routine pop foul when he tried to nonchalantly one-hand it. Alfonzo threw behind a baserunner – in the 10th inning, no less – on a stolen base Wednesday.
For a manager who used to catch, Wakamatsu wants defense first from his catchers, and what he’s seen so far from the candidates in camp has not been impressive.
Don’t be surprised if, in the next few weeks, Zduriencik finds another backup catcher – one whose résumé reads, “Good defense.”
Mariners ride power stroke
Riding the power of Ryan Garko and Tommy Everidge, the Mariners evened their spring record at 1-1 by beating San Diego, 9-3.
Garko homered, Everidge hit a grand slam and Seattle had 13 hits – including an RBI single by rookie Dustin Ackley.
Figgins finicky at plate
If Chone Figgins isn’t sleeping or fishing, he’s working – and he hasn’t been fishing in days.
As camp awakens each morning, Figgins is in the batting cage at 7 a.m. working on drills that he thinks keep him sharp. Seems a few years ago, Figgins reviewed tape of every out he made one season.
What he found, he said, was about 50 to 60 at-bats he’d “given away” by swinging at pitches that weren’t necessarily out of the strike zone but were pitches he couldn’t handle and didn’t have to swing at.
That knowledge changed his approach at the plate.
Now, Figgins practices taking pitches he doesn’t hit well, focusing on the ones he does.
“It’s not taking away an attack mentality,” batting coach Alan Cockrell said. “It’s an attack mentality under control.”
Figgins preaches what he practices. During batting practice with a group that includes Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr. and Milton Bradley, Figgins will say, “We don’t swing at that pitch” if someone chases.
Junior being Junior
Junior starts work early, too, although sometimes his work seems closer to play.
Nothing pleases him more than stirring things up in a clubhouse, and he is a master at it.
On Thursday, with most of the regular players sitting on stools and watching, he began stirring Ichiro.
He accused Ichiro of scoring runs for some players, not others, and said Ichiro was biased about whom he let drive him in. Ichiro listened and listened, and after a few minutes exploded.
“You’re a liar, you (bleep)!” Ichiro shouted. “You’re a (bleeping bleeper)!”
Ichiro’s teammates fell apart at his awkward English cursing, and Ichiro was laughing as hard as any of them.
“That’s what I thought you’d say,” Griffey said.
Here’s a scare – on the last pitch of his first inning of spring, David Aardsma felt his groin tighten up. He’ll miss at least one scheduled appearance, and the Mainers are hoping they caught the injury early. … Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez continues to nurse a tender shoulder, although it hasn’t kept him out of hitting, fielding or running drills. He simply doesn’t throw, and won’t play the outfield until Sunday or Monday. … Before the scheduled Cactus League game today, Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee will throw a simulated game against batters. Hernandez will throw one inning, Lee two.
Seattle plays San Diego again in the second of four consecutive games between them at Peoria Stadium, this one starting at 12:05 p.m. (PST). Probable starting pitchers: Luke French vs. Mat Latos.