PEORIA, Ariz. - Catcher Miguel Olivo was handling three to four pitchers a day early in camp with the Seattle Mariners, and knew very few of them by name - and one, Michael Pineda, he simply called "The Big Guy."
Makes sense: Pineda is listed at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, and he says he’s both taller and heavier.
“I’m very strong,” Pineda said Wednesday after pitching two perfect innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Seattle’s 5-3 loss. It was his first start against big-league hitters, and Pineda threw 22 pitches, 11 in each inning.
When he got to the sixth hitter, Xavier Nady, Pineda had trouble finishing him.
“I went to 3-2, then fastball. He fouled it off,” he said. “Another fastball, he fouled it off. So I thought, ‘OK, I’ll throw you the slider!’ And I threw it for a strike.”
Pineda walked off the mound and was mobbed by teammates in the dugout who high-fived him, patted him on the back and made the rookie feel special. What was the 22-year-old right-hander thinking as he left the mound?
“When I came off the mound after the second inning, I was thinking ‘Oh thank you, God. Oh thank you, God!’ That was a nice two innings, quick innings,” Pineda said. “That was good for today.”
His manager, Eric Wedge, talked about the confrontation in that final at-bat.
“Certain situations come up in games and you find out about guys,” Wedge said. “That was one of those situations. He was composed on the mound, he had command of his fastball and his secondary pitches were good.”
He even made an adjustment between innings, suggested by pitching coach Carl Willis, that sharpened his slider.
“Between innings, Carl told me I was coming open a little quickly on my slider, and to stay back,” Pineda said. “In the second inning, I did that and it was better.”
M’S ACQUIRE PITCHER
Looking for pitching depth, the Seattle Mariners acquired left-hander Aaron Laffey Wednesday from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor-league infielder Matt Lawson and cash.
“With Aaron, we felt we had the opportunity to acquire a left-handed pitcher with major league experience. We will bring him to spring training and give him a chance to compete for a position on our pitching staff,” GM Jack Zduriencik said.
Laffey, 25, has an 18-21 career record with a 4.41 earned run average in 79 major league games, 49 of those starts.
Lawson, 25, was a minor league utility middle infielder Seattle got as part of the Cliff Lee trade with the Texas Rangers, the deal that brought Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke and Blake Beavan to the Mariners. Now, that same deal has helped produce Laffey.
To make room for Laffey on the 40-man roster, Seattle placed reliever Shawn Kelley on the 60-day disabled list. Kelley, returning from elbow surgery, is not expected to pitch before June.
4 HITS, 2 RUNS
Against seven Arizona pitchers, the Mariners managed four hits Wednesday – and two of those came in the ninth inning.
Seattle got a two-run single from Matt Tuiasosopo in the eighth inning to close the deficit to 3-2, then went to the ninth inning behind, 5-2.
That’s when Adam Moore tripled with two outs, Dustin Ackley doubled him home and Alex Liddi was hit by a pitch. Representing the go-ahead run, Josh Wilson grounded into a force play to end the game.
Felix Hernandez will throw a simulated game in camp today, then expects to start a Cactus League game on March 8. ... Lefty Jason Vargas will pitch a simulated game on Friday, and if all goes well could start in the spring game on March 9. ... Pitcher David Pauley agreed to his 2011 contract Wednesday, the last player among the 62 in camp to do so. ... Mariners pitchers Jamey Wright, Manny Delcarmen and Edward Paredes each pitched shutout innings against the Diamondbacks. ...The acquisition of pitcher Laffey gives the Mariners 63 players in camp, including two – relievers David Aardsma and Kelley – who will start the season on the disabled list.
Seattle plays the Chicago White Sox in a 12:05 p.m. PST game. Probable starting pitchers: Luke French vs. John Danks.