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Spring Training Games Underway

Peoria Sports ComplexI do not think a player can be properly evaluated in two games, and I also believe spring training statistics tend to be given too much consideration in decision-making. However, a player that performs remarkably well cannot help but grab the eye of a coaching staff, and it does make cutting them a little more difficult. Just two games into the spring training "season," the Mariners already have a couple of interesting players standing out:
  • Mike Morse, INF/OF, (69/75) - Signing Miguel Cairo (70/68) practically spelled the end of Morse's career in Seattle (which I am not thrilled about). However, Mike is off to a rapid start in the Cactus League, and if he keeps it up, he may just stick around. The odds are still stacked against him, but I think the M's will have a hard time cutting him loose on waivers for nothing if he has a killer spring.
  • Wladimir Balentien, OF, (70/81) - John McLaren has already anointed Brad Wilkerson (69/68) the starter in right field, and though he is off to a nice start, Balentien must have turned some heads with his multi-homer game. I was hoping for at least an open competition between Balentien and Wilkerson for the job, and so maybe it will become a competition if Wlad impales the ball for the better part of March.
Realistically, individual performances do not matter much in spring training, and considering that McLaren has already named virtually the entire opening day roster, he seems to not put much in spring training performances either. However, McLaren has laid out a number of goals for the team this year, and those changes should show up in spring training numbers:
  • For pitchers, their has been a tremendous emphasis on pitching inside. So far, M's pitchers have hit three batters this spring, and I would expect to see many more hit batters if the coaching staff continues to drive it home to every member of the staff. I am sure nobody on the coaching staff is telling M's pitchers to hit batters, but I doubt they frowned when to Padres were plunked on Sunday.
  • On the basepaths, McLaren wants to be much more aggressive, and has gone as far as saying he thinks that Ichiro can steal 80 bases, and Yuniesky Betancourt 40. I am not sure which prediction is more ridiculous, but on Saturday the M's stole four bases as a team, and on Friday Brian LaHair inexplicable tried to steal second and was thrown out by a mile. If the Mariners do not run wild in spring training, they certainly will not in the regular season, so this bears watching.
  • Jeff Pentland has stated that he is working with M's hitters on being more selective at the plate in hopes of working pitchers more, and getting a few better pitches to hit. In theory, this should lead to more walks and higher pitch counts. In the first couple games the hitters have been drawing some walks, though that could be a product of wild pitchers as much as disciplined pitch selection at this point. Once again, if hitters are not going to take pitches when statistics do not matter, the odds of them taking more pitches when games count is extremely slim.
It is really hard to find any sort of intrigue this spring training because McLaren has made so many decisions already. I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing, especially looking at this year's team, but it does take some of the wind out of Spring Training's sails. There still are a few things to look at, but ultimately it is just nice to hear the sweet sounds of baseball again.