Mariners have a surprise visitor as Pitching Ninja shows up in Peoria

Rob Friedman a.k.a. Pitching Ninja visited Mariner spring training this week diving into the uniqueness of a few key hurlers.
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

For anyone who loves nasty pitches and solid breakdowns, you've probably heard of Rob Friedman, also known as Pitching Ninja. Friedman is a big fan of the Mariners' staff, having conducted various interview sessions with Bryce Miller, George Kirby, and Logan Gilbert. He even routinely would feature those pitchers and Matt Brash in his "Nastiest Pitches of the Day" segment. Friedman took it further this week and visited the Peoria Sports Complex to check in with the stars and their backstop Cal Raleigh.

Friedman spent time individually with Gilbert and Kirby, talking about pitch grips, which was captivating. The 26-year-old Gilbert mentioned his adjustment on the splitter he picked up last season, while Kirby mentioned his ability to control a knuckleball. The latter won Friedman's "Knuckler of the Year" award, which was eye-opening, considering Kirby only hurled one knuckleball all season.

Kirby's inaugural knuckleball was a tribute to former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, a premier knuckleball artist and leader of some of Boston's playoff runs. Wakefield passed away last year after a long and private battle with cancer.

Friedman also caught up with The Mariners' 14th-ranked prospect, Ryan Bliss, who is not a pitcher, but there is a unique connection between the two. The dynamic middle infielder who joined the Mariners via the Paul Sewald trade was on Friedman's sons' travel team a few years ago. Bliss chatted about the tough at-bats Mariner pitchers are for the opposition and him this spring.

Pitching Ninja has built a brand and a name synonymous with quality hurlers. Over the past few years, he's featured Blake Snell, Kodai Senga, Garrett Cole, and the Mariners' starters. While at Mariners' camp, Friedman echoed a narrative he's been spinning for the past year, stating the Mariners have the best collection of arms in Major League Baseball. That's lofty praise considering the sheer amount of talent in the league, but if the starting five continue to evolve, develop pitches, and accentuate their skill sets, that might gain steam.