There was a treat for the 20-or-so spectators this morning at the Mariners minor league camp: ace starter Felix Hernandez, pitching for the Mariners Double-A team against the Rainiers Triple-A group.
The Mariners had Felix pitch in the intersquad game rather than against the Texas Rangers in a Cactus League game.
And let’s just say that Felix may have been a bit surprised to see what happened when he fell behind in the count, 3-1, to the first hitter of the game: new Rainiers center fielder Ezequiel Carrera.
So, Felix threw him a fastball down the middle, and Carrera hammered a line drive home run to right field.
Carrera – like Felix a native of Venezuela – could barely contain his smile as rounded the bases. It must have been a thrill for the 22-year-old outfielder who led the Southern League with a .337 batting average last year – especially since he only hit two home runs a season ago, and has hit just 11 in his professional career.
After Carrera’s bomb, Felix settled down. He ended up pitching six innings (86 pitches, 54 strikes) and gave up three hits: a double to Ryan Langerhans, a double to Matt Mangini, and the homer.
Watching Felix Hernandez pitch in a minor league game was just part of what became a rather enjoyable morning for a die-hard Mariners fan. Most of the top prospects in the system played in this intersquad game, and I got to see several for the first time.
Some quick hits:
- Luke French started for the Triple-A team. He was optioned to Tacoma before the game and may pitch in the Rainiers rotation. French is a finesse lefty who looked sharp, although he did allow an opposite-field home run to top hitting prospect Alex Liddi. French had a 2.98 ERA in 13 Triple-A starts for Toledo last year – numbers that Rainiers manager Daren Brown would love to see him duplicate.
- Carlos Triunfel looked much better than I expected. The infielder missed nearly all of 2009 with a broken leg, and then came reports that he was overweight and out of shape in the Arizona Fall League. That report is now officially old news: Triunfel dedicated himself to physical conditioning over the winter, and he certainly doesn’t appear to be overweight. Today he showed decent speed legging out an opposite field triple.
- I got my first look at Dustin Ackley, who is slated to open the season as the Double-A second baseman. Ackley is much slighter than most of his teammates, and he has a wiry frame. Heard a great second-hand quote attributed to Special Assistant John Boles: “You could lock him in a closet for a year, and he’d come out hitting.” However, he went 0-for-2 with a walk under my watch.
- Garrett Olson relieved French and ended up allowing a mammoth home run to Double-A power prospect Carlos Peguero. The ball landed on a car in the Mariners parking lot (thankfully not my rental as I declined the insurance). While Peguero rounded the bases a Rainiers pitcher told me “this kid’s been dropping bombs all spring.”
I left after Peguero’s homer and ran into Rainiers manager Daren Brown and hitting coach Alonzo Powell, who were hopping in a car to drive to Surprise and assist coaching the big league team. Powell broke into a big smile when he heard about Carrera’s homer.
And thus concludes this year’s spring training trip. I’m off to the airport to catch a flight home on my favorite airline, and gear up for the season opener at Cheney Stadium next Thursday.
Tomorrow – or maybe Friday – I’ll post some thoughts on this year’s team as we move towards the opener. We should get an official opening day roster by Monday, the team will be in town, and we’ll be off-and-running.