PEORIA, Ariz. - When it comes to discussions about the Seattle Mariners' starting rotation this season, David Pauley is an afterthought - which is an improvement over 2010, when he wasn't thought of at all.
A 27-year-old right-hander without a dominant pitch, Pauley was a midseason call-up for Seattle, and his first start of the year was a telling game.
Against the New York Yankees, Pauley went five innings and allowed one earned run – a first-inning home run to Mark Texeira. Great game? Yes, but he lost nonetheless. And it didn’t get much better for Pauley or anyone else on the staff.
There were lessons learned, however, and Pauley intends to make the most of them.
“When I was called up by Boston (in 2006), I thought I had to be better than I’d been in the minors, and I tried too hard,” Pauley said. “Last season, I figured I’d use the stuff that got me here and not change.”
Pauley finished the season with a 4-9 record with a 4.07 earned-run average in 902/3 innings.
As a fifth starter, he pitched at least six innings in 11 of his 15 starts.
“After last season, I felt better about myself. I do belong up here,” Pauley said.
Now, he simply has to prove it to a new Mariners staff – and beat out teammates such as Michael Piñeda, Nate Robertson, Luke French and Charlie Hager.
“The stress isn’t as high for me this spring,” Pauley said. “The highlight for me last year was my consistency. Whether I gave up three runs, two runs or four runs, I felt I competed. I kept my head in the game.
“In the past, that’s been an issue. I’d cruise through three innings and let up for some reason and one inning would beat me.
“Part of it is not second guessing myself on the mound before throwing a pitch. There were times I’d be thinking of one pitch and the catcher would call another and I’d think about it too much before throwing it. I trust my catchers, but I have to make that decision,” Pauley said.
Pauley is 6-foot-2 and weighed 205 pounds at the end of last season, and trainers gave him a program to build muscle and asked him to come in stronger.
He gained 13 pounds, while his body fat rose just 11/2 percentage points.
Is he ready for the spring games that begin Sunday? Pauley laughed.
“Spring training can mess you up,” he said. “Hitters early on may be tracking pitches, getting their timing. As a pitcher, though, you have to approach the game with a midseason mindset and forget what the hitter may or may not be doing. You have to get him out.
“If a hitter doesn’t hit, it’s early. If you get hammered, you may not be around later in spring.
“I throw a sinker, change-up, curve and slider-cutter. Last year, finally, I pitched to contact. When I pitched to have hitters miss, I’d get into trouble and walk guys. That’s not my game,” Pauley said.
“Command is nothing more than repetition. Can you have the same delivery, the same release point every pitch? You find something that works, and you do it again and again.
“I came to camp to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. If I’m in the bullpen, that’s fine with me. If it’s the rotation, fine. I want to be part of this,” he said. “Other than Felix (Hernandez), Jason (Vargas) and Doug (Fister), I think the rotation is wide open.”
AN INFIELD PICKLE?
Infielder Brendan Ryan expected to get more practice time at second base than shortstop this spring, but it’s turned out to be the opposite.
That, of course, could be awkward, since his locker is next to incumbent shortstop Jack Wilson, but Ryan said it hasn’t been.
“When I was traded here, Jack was one of the first guys who called to welcome me,” Ryan said. “And we’re talking about defense and hitters all the time. I don’t know where I’m going to play, but I’m enjoying camp.”
Before team stretching, rookie outfielders Mike Wilson and Greg Halman ambushed veteran Milton Bradley with a long double hug, which got Bradley laughing. “We love that guy,” Halman said. “We’re just giving him some love.” The day after walking without crutches for the first time since December hip surgery, closer David Aardsma was asked how he felt. “Like I’d taken a long walk,” he said. “Not sore, but aware.” Coach Jeff Datz was running pop fly drills with a pitching machine, and on one pop fly, he put the ball straight up – and when it came down, it missed his head by inches. “That would have staggered him, at best,” manager Eric Wedge said. Hernandez may not pitch in a Cactus League game until late next week as the Mariners try to slow him down a bit. He threw to hitters, who tracked his pitches, on Thursday, and next time around will throw a bullpen session. Next up? Perhaps a simulated game, then the real thing.