Mariners Spring Training Recap: Day 1

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Mariners baseball is officially back, and SoDo Mojo is your home for everything M’s this spring.

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For the first time since last October, people were wearing Seattle Mariners uniforms and hats and they played baseball (sort of). It has been a long and eventful offseason in the Emerald City, but we are finally within shouting distance of the 2016 season.

Pitchers and catchers reported to the Mariners spring training complex in Peoria, AZ on Friday morning. Today also marks what would have been Dave Niehaus’ 81st birthday. Maybe it’s a good omen that the M’s 2016 season kicks off on the birthday of the most beloved figure in club history. We could use some his magic this year as Seattle tries to make the postseason for the first time since 2001.

Surprisingly, Danny Hultzen was the first Mariner on the bump this morning in Peoria. The former top prospect has been limited to just 8 innings of work the last two seasons, and was designated for assignment this past fall. However, Hultzen is transitioning to the bullpen and could make his long awaited debut in Seattle this season. The M’s tweeted out a video of the rare Hultzen sighting.

Next up on the mound was the new and improved James Paxton. The Ladner, BC product missed much of the 2015 season with a strained finger (sadly, I’m not joking). Pax-Man has shed 20 pounds this offseason, and he is hoping to finally kick the injury bug in 2016. He will compete this spring with newcomer Nate Karns for the final spot in the Mariners starting rotation. Paxton has all the tools to be special, he just has to find a way to stay on the field. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times provided video of Paxton’s bullpen session on Friday.

One of the more prominent additions to the Mariners this winter was first baseman Dae Ho Lee. Despite the fact position players are not required to report until next week, the 33-year-old is already in Arizona getting some work in. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune had his camera rolling when Lee was showing off his 46 mph fastball.

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As you may have already noticed, Lee is literally the “big man on campus” in Peoria. There is plenty of girth on the Korean born first baseman, but he has reportedly worked hard this offseason to trim down. Lee dropped 50 pounds this winter to prepare for his opportunity with the Mariners. He is expected to compete with Jesus Montero to backup Adam Lind at first base in 2016.

The final person to take the field on the first day of spring training is arguably the best young player in camp. Felix Hernandez‘s son Jeremy was spotted on the field working on his pitching motion. Jeremy garnered national attention last season for his memorable first pitch at a Mariners game, and he appears to be throwing even harder this year. Jerry Dipoto has been extremely busy this offseason, but locking up Jeremy Hernandez long term should be his top priority.

Next: Mariners Top 20 Prospects: #11 LF Dario Pizzano

Saturday will be the first day Seattle pitchers and catchers will actually take the field in Peoria. They will be doing activities like bunting drills and defensive positioning classes. Pitchers will also be learning the exotic dance steps required to cover first base. Pretty exciting stuff. As always, SoDo Mojo will bring you every detail of tomorrow’s workouts. Go Mariners!

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