The first week of Cactus League games is in the books. Sample sizes are small, considering there are 75 players in camp. We're still focusing on players who stack up moments, whether on the positive or negative side of the spectrum. We'll start with our top performers of the week.
Mariners Spring Training Report: 3 Up
Robbie Ray arrived in Seattle last year with a ton of hype. He was coming off an AL Cy Young award and turned that into a 5-year deal. Looking back, 2022 was a rollercoaster season for the veteran southpaw, with many people focusing on his playoff woes. Ray took that as motivation, came to camp fit, and armed with a new pitch (split change). Making his second start of the spring, Ray racked up five strikeouts in three sharp shutout innings, flashing his new pitch a few times.
Jarred Kelenic has handled the two spot in most of his appearances, and the results have been magnificent. Displaying a new approach to winning each pitch has paid big dividends for the 23-year-old outfielder. In addition, he gave Mariners fans a taste of the future by going back-to-back with Julio Rodriguez earlier this week. Still, this moonshot off Milwaukee Brewers All-Star Closer Devin Williams is all over the Twitterverse.
Tommy La Stella's shoulder injury might push him into DFA territory, especially if Cooper Hummel keeps hitting. The switch-hitting utility man (C/OF) has a solid slash line (.273/.430/.527), but the control-the-zone tendencies and a couple of long homers stand out. A few weeks ago, Jerry Dipoto joined Seattle Sports 710-morning show and mentioned Hummel's ability to play the corner infield spots. So put that nugget in your mind until March 27th, when the former Arizona Diamondback makes the roster.
Mariners Spring Training Report: 3 Down
Matt Brash had an outing to forget against the Cubs. He ended up pitching 1/3 of an inning and giving up five runs. Control problems plagued the 24-year-old flamethrower and three bloop hits. Most people will point to the weak contact and those hits being of the lucky variety, but the takeaway is Brash couldn't land his off-speed pitches. The good news is two-fold: it's still early in the Cactus League slate, and he'll have WBC games to continue to hone his devasting slider.
The team is slow-rolling Logan Gilbert and George Kirby this spring to manage their workload after the 2022 season. Kirby made his first Cactus League start against the Colorado Rockies, and it didn't go particularly well, as he gave up four runs (two earned) over 1 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old was the victim of several errors and some spotty command. He was also working on a new pitch. Look for Kirby to bounce back this week.
I’m not a big fan of kicking a guy when he is down, but Tommy La Stella hasn’t played yet. Unfortunately, this doesn't bode well for his chances of breaking camp with the major league team. The utility man's lack of availability, teamed with his low salary (Major League Minimum), are both factors working against him.
This a big week ahead for players in roster battles like Hummel, Colin Moran, Chris Flexen, and Marco Gonzales. Additionally, manager Scott Servais will lose at least six regulars this week to the WBC, so youngsters like Jonathan Clase, Robert Perez, and Harry Ford should get a little more run.