Ten things I learned this week in Arizona
My trip this past week to the Mariners spring training home in Peoria, Arizona was quite beneficial in many respects. The Mariners have an 18-9 record this spring and some of it can be attributed to the play of members of the 2012 Generals. With that said, here are 10 things I learned this week.
- 2012 Generals Brandon Maurer and Brad Miller are the talk of Mariners camp. The 2012 Southern League Pitcher of the Year, Brandon Maurer has a legit shot at one of the two open spots in Seattle’s rotation. Maurer out-dueled Giants’ lefty Barry Zito Tuesday night and is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in five spring outings, with 15 strikeouts in 15 innings. Infielder Brad Miller has two triples a home run and five RBI this spring. Miller had a big game Tuesday against the defending World Champion Giants and has played short stop, third base and even some second base. The 2012 Generals Minor League Heart and Soul Award winner is making a name for himself. Miller still could start the year in Jackson, but his time here could be short lived.
- There is so much pitching depth in the organization and it’s not just the big names like Paxton, Hultzen, Walker and Maurer. The Generals rotation this season could feature guys with major league experience like Hector Noesi and Chance Ruffin just because there is so much depth. Those guys plus prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton could end up in Jackson.
- Catching is just as deep as pitching. Catchers Mike Zunino, Ronny Paulino, Jesus Sucre and Brandon Bantz should be in Triple-A. But there just is not enough spots. Highly touted prospect John Hicks out of Virginia is expected to start for Jackson, but could that be put on hold, maybe.
- The potential Jackson outfield would be a good 4×400 meter relay team. There are seven guys fighting for those four or five spots, but they all can fly. Former LSU star Leon Landry leads the pack. He was a track and football star in high school and had he of wanted to play running back at LSU, he could’ve made a huge impact there. James James, Abe Almonte, Denny Almonte, Julio Morban, Daniel Carroll and newly turned centerfielder Francisco Martinez are top candidates.
- Mariners brass have a lot of tough decisions to make. Friday while taking in the big league clubs batting practice. Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik told me in passing “I’ve got to pay close attention right now, it’s so close with some of these guys”. Cuts have been postponed time and time again this spring because of the amount of depth at several positions all throughout the system.
- The big league club has a middle of the order now. Last year the Mariners were last in the AL in home runs. But, this spring with the additions of power hitters Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales that has changed. Those two have combined for 11 of the 48 team home runs this spring.
- It still amazes me watching games on the back fields. The six backfields of a spring training complex are like glorified high school fields. Chain link fences with metal bleachers, but perfectly manicured diamonds. Watching some of the best players in the world in that setting is pretty cool.
- Speaking of the complex, construction to begin when spring training ends. The Mariners share the Peoria Sports Complex with the San Diego Padres and on April 6, they will demolish the current clubhouses. The 10 month project will give both teams new state of the art weight rooms, training rooms, clubhouse facilities and office space.
- Former Generals will be seen and heard from this season in Jackson. I spent three hours Thursday collecting video and audio from former Generals like Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Stephen Pryor, Tom Wilhelmsen, Brandon Maurer and Danny Hultzen. Even Mariners stars that didn’t play in Jackson such as Brendon Ryan, Michael Morse and Justin Smoak recorded radio promos you will hear all season long.
- It’s all still Felix’s world. Not only is Felix Hernandez a tremendous pitcher, he is a doubly better human being. You can just see it in the way he treats everyone from the clubhouse crew to parking lot attendants. The former Cy Young award winner fed over 200 minor league staffers and players last week Famous Dave’s barbecue. With this new contract he can more than afford it, but he didn’t have to do it. He is the only player in the Mariners clubhouse that uses two lockers. But, if anyone has earned it, Felix has.