Mariners Insider Blog

It’s a `smoother’ ride this spring for Mariners reliever Nick Vincent

Right-hander Nick Vincent is a fixture in the Mariners’ bullpen.
Right-hander Nick Vincent is a fixture in the Mariners’ bullpen. AP

Sometimes the best approach is common sense.

Mariners reliever Nick Vincent took a beating at times early last season when left-handed hitters teed off on his two-seam fastball.

Solution?

Stop throwing it.

Vincent allowed just two home runs over his final 20 appearances. Neither one was to a left-handed hitter.

"It pretty much means I just didn’t leave pitches down the middle for them to hit," he explained. "I just made bad pitches in the beginning of the season. They hit them.

"It was lefties in the bottom of the lineup. I was trying to go two-seams away, and the two-seam was going straight. Those guys hit home runs…I stopped throwing it midway through the season. That was that, pretty much."

Fast forward to this spring.

"I’ve been working more on a two-seamer again," Vincent said, "just trying to find a grip that works. Those pitches last season, any lefty is going to hit it out."

For Vincent, this is a spring unlike any other in his 10 professional seasons in that he knows where he’s going to be come opening day. He is a fixture in the Mariners’ bullpen after compiling a 3.73 ERA last season in 60 appearances.

"Something that goes underappreciated is he’s deceptive," manager Scott Servais said. "Hitters do not pick up the ball well against him — the way the ball comes out of his hand, and the way it cuts.

"He pitches up in the zone, which works to his advantage as well."

Vincent’s career split show he’s far more effective in right-on-right situations, but the Mariners’ lack of left-handed options last season often forced him to face left-handed hitters.

Roughly 38 percent of the hitters that Vincent faced last season were left-handed, and they compiled a .301 on-base percentage. Right-handed hitters managed only a .268 OBP.

"We’re still going to need him to (face) some left-handed hitters," Servais cautioned. "I wish every manager would make their lineup out where they stacked them all together, but it doesn’t always work that way.

"There will be times when (lefty Marc) Rzepczynski has to work through a right-hander. There will be times when (right-hander Steve) Cishek and Vincent have to work through a lefty. That’s just how it works."

Just not as often.

Vincent, 30, spent parts of four seasons at San Diego, from 2012-15, bouncing between the Padres and the minors despite compiling a 2.63 ERA in 161 career big-league games.

A year ago, Vincent was out of options when he arrived for spring training. That meant he couldn’t be sent back to the minors without clearing waivers, but he had no guaranteed spot in the Padres’ bullpen.

Trade rumors swirled that somebody — likely Vincent or his spring roommate, Kevin Quackenbush — was headed elsewhere. The Mariners, in need of a reliever because of an injury to Evan Scribner, talked to the Padres about both.

It wasn’t until March 30 that the deal went down. The Mariners got Vincent for a player to be named later. He walked across the parking lot at the Peoria Sports Complex.

"Last year wasn’t too stressful," Vincent recalled. "We knew somebody was going among us. So…it is what it is. It’s more stressful not knowing if you’re going to get called up or sent down."

Even so, it is different this year.

"For me, it’s a little smoother," Vincent admitted. "For me, it’s always come in prepared. Just be ready is the season were to start in the middle of March. And I’m there. I just need a little more touch/feel when facing hitters."

On the two-seamer. And everything else.

ZYCH ON THE MOUND

Reliever Tony Zych tested his repaired right shoulder Tuesday by throwing from a mound for the first time since undergoing surgery in October. Barring complications, he should be ready by opening day.

Zych, 26, missed most of last season because of shoulder problems and underwent surgery on Oct. 11 in New York for a biceps tendon transfer. He threw 20 pitches Tuesday and is tentatively scheduled to throw again on Friday.

Reliever Steve Cishek continues to progress through his throwing program in his recovery from Oct. 12 surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. Servais said Cishek was "a little ways away" from throwing from a mound.

VICTORY PROJECTION

The Mariners’ over/under victory projection this season is 85 1/2 in odds posted by www.bovada.lv, an online gaming site.

That ranks fourth among American League clubs and second to Houston (89 1/2) among AL West clubs. In effect, Bovada is projecting the Mariners to end their 15-year postseason drought by gaining a wild-card berth.

Boston and Cleveland have the highest over/under line among AL clubs at 92 1/2, followed by Houston and the Mariners. The Chicago Cubs are the highest overall at 95 1/2, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers at 93 1/2.

The AL West: Houston (89 1/2), Mariners (85 1/2), Texas (84 1/2), Los Angeles (79 1/2) and Oakland (73 1/2).

SPELLECY FAREWELL

Ron Spellecy retired Tuesday after 20 years as the Mariners’ director of team travel. His responsibilities included implementing all of the club’s travel requirements in addition to coordinating the spring-training schedule.

Jack Mosimann will add Spellecy’s responsibilities to his new job as director for major-league operations. Mosimann previously worked as an assistant in the player-development department.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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