Shocking headline, eh?
Today Felix Hernandez had his final pre-season start. Instead of facing the division rival Texas Rangers in the regularly scheduled Cactus League game, the Mariners decided to “hide” their ace and have him pitch in a minor league intrasquad game.
So at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning, Felix was pitching for the Tacoma Rainiers out on Field 3 in the Mariners minor league complex. And the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner was facing a group of Class-A and AA hitters.
It wasn’t exactly a fair fight.
However, it was fun to watch. Here’s a look at the scene.
A crowd of less than 100 gathered. It's basically like a baseball game played on a very well-groomed high school field.
Media, scouts, and non-participating minor league players gathered behind the plate.
The man of the hour.
As for the game itself:
- Felix absolutely dominated. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, when 17-year-old Dominican bonus baby Phillips Castillo grounded a single through the left side. It was a big moment for Castillo.
- Felix faced a few Double-A players – Nate Tenbrink, Joe Dunigan, and Johermyn Chavez were among his opponents – but he also faced a number of Class-A and short-season prospects.
- They didn’t score off Felix – in fact, he gave up just two hits (Chavez had a broken-bat single).
- In the third inning, Felix needed about 11 pitches to strike out the side. Pitching coach Carl Willis had him stay out and face another hitter. I was hoping for the rare four-strikeout inning, but the hitter put the ball in play.
- In the sixth, Felix struck out Castillo but wanted to work on pitching with runners on base – so he told Castillo to take first. Castillo was then thrown out by Miguel Olivo trying to steal – and Felix told him to stay at second. Olivo nearly picked him off afterwards – we were hoping Castillo would be put out three times in one “inning,” but no such luck.
- Blake Beavan opposed Felix and did not have a good game. He allowed three runs in the first, and three more in the second before settling down and delivering three straight scoreless frames.
- In the first inning Sean Kazmar doubled off Beavan and scored on Miguel Olivo’s base hit to center. Mike Carp also singled off Beavan.
- In the second inning, intriguing 2010 draft pick Jabari Blash hit an opposite-field homer off Beavan.
- After Felix left the game, Josh Fields tossed a scoreless inning. Fields has been working out with the Double-A group.
- Tacoma had a designated fielder: Jack Wilson played second base, but he did not bat. He was looking to get some ground balls, but Felix kept striking out Class-A hitters.
I’ve been trying to get a handle on the Rainiers roster, but there is still a group of about 35 Triple-A players that needs to be cut down to 24.
Early in the day the Mariners optioned Matt Tuiasosopo to Tacoma, while sending Triple-A players Mike Wilson, Royce Ring, Denny Bautista and Justin Miller to minor league camp.
If I had to guess, I would suggest a Tacoma starting rotation of Luke French, Blake Beavan, Chris Seddon, Charlie Haeger, and either Yusmeiro Petit or Jarret Grube. But I am purely speculating right now.
A couple of links:
- At The News Tribune, Ryan Divish wrote a column about picking the World Series participants.
- At The Times, Larry Stone has a story on the two players the Mariners are focusing on for the #2 pick in the June draft.
- Michael Pineda made a statement on Saturday: he’s ready for the big leagues.
- Tacoma Rainiers 3rd string Official Scorer Mike Jessee is here and he wanted to say hello to all Mike… Off-Mic readers.
I had dinner with Rainiers manager Daren Brown and pitching coach Dwight Bernard last night. They weren’t able to shed any light on the Rainiers opening day roster – they’re waiting for the Mariners front office to make their final decisions, just like everyone else.
On Monday I’ll be able to watch about half of the Triple-A game before heading off to the airport. If I can sneak in a blog update, I will.