Notes: Hurlers told to ease into spring
Stottlemyre trying to 'get acquainted' with new pitching staff
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The first thing the 28 Mariners pitchers trying to earn a spot on the 12-man Opening Day pitching staff over the next six weeks were told on Thursday was: take it slow and easy."We want them to know that they can't make the club the first day," manager John McLaren said. "When you've got adrenaline, you have that charged-up feeling and want to impress everybody. We want to get them ready for when there's hitters in front of them in games." The first day of camp went off with a couple of minor hitches under mostly cloudy skies at the Peoria Sports Complex. "We had to tell a couple of guys to tone it down a little bit," McLaren said. The Mariners, bolstered by the recent trade that netted them a top-of-the-rotation starter in left-hander Erik Bedard from the Orioles, started the six-week training period on Thursday, when all of the pitchers participated in 10-minute bullpen throwing sessions. For the most part, they followed the advice they received earlier in the morning. "There always is a fear, regardless of who's in my position, that someone will try to over-impress," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "And surprisingly, it's not just the young guys." More than anything, the first few days of camp are about getting acquainted. This is Stottlemyre's first year as the Mariners pitching coach and although he has seen many of them on television, he needs to do some quick learning this spring. "I am familiar with a few of them," Stottlemyre said. "I have a little bit of knowledge as to how some of them operate and what they have, but it will take the full six weeks of Spring Training for me to get to know all of them." "I got an opportunity to see them throw, a lot of them for the first time," Stottlemyre said. "It's kind of a learning process for me and at the same time, they need to be learning who I am, what I am, and what we expect. By the end of Spring Training, I will know them real well and they will know me real well. The start of Spring Training basically is getting your arm in shape and getting used to our throwing routine. We will throw a lot." Two years removed from ending a super-successful career as the Yankees pitching coach -- the Yankees won four World Series championships during his 10-year tenure -- Stottlemyre says the start of this Spring Training is "refreshing." "I can't remember being this excited," he said. "It has been a lot of years."
He's excited because the 66-year-old pitching coach is a longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest and can, for the first time, live at home during the season. Not only that, he believes the Mariners have a superb five-man starting rotation, one that can carry the team far in 2008.Right-handers Felix Hernandez, Miguel Batista and Carlos Silva, and left-handers Jarrod Washburn and Bedard should give Seattle one of the best rotations in the American League this season. Just how good? "It's refreshing to come into Spring Training and be able to name the five starters," Stottlemyre said. "I can guarantee you that there are a lot of clubs that have no idea who their No. 5 starter is, and in some cases, they have no idea who their No. 4 is. "On paper, we have a strong rotation and my idea is for us to have the capability of throwing out a real quality starting pitcher on a daily basis, to where every day we take the field we have an opportunity to win. That doesn't mean we will win every day, but have an opportunity to win." The mission this spring is to stretch out seven starters and get to know each and every one in camp. "It's important for me to get to know every pitcher here, whether they are on the roster or they were invited here as a non-roster player," Stottlemyre said. "One of the things I have found out over the years is that you never have enough pitching. "During the course of a season, there will be injuries we can't see right now, so we're going to need replacements. I need to know those people, or at least have an idea what they are all about, so I'll be working just as hard getting to know the young guys as I will the others." While the top two starters will be Bedard and Hernandez, the exact rotation setup probably won't be decided until the final 10 days of camp. "That's when we'll be coming together as a team and the timing geared into molding my staff," he said. "I want everyone to know exactly where everyone fits." First camp casualty: Minor League pitching coach Scott Budner was transported via ambulance to a local hospital on Thursday for an "evaluation of lower-back pain." The Mariners' medical staff said the injury didn't appear to be serious. Oh deer: Willie Bloomquist has bagged a few deer since becoming a hunter five or six years ago. But this winter he purchased one -- specifically a doe that currently lives on a Montana ranch owned by Washburn. Bloomquist said the doe, currently named "Pink-43," eventually will have offspring, which the super sub said with a sly grin, "Would make me a grandfather." Pitcher Miguel Batista, sitting nearby, raised an eyebrow when he heard the name of the doe. "Pink-43? Why not 'Pink-20?'" he asked. Batista wears number 43. No Lash: For the first time in the past 21 seasons, the Mariners opened camp without Larry "Lash" LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune being there to report on it. LaRue recently suffered a heart attack and had five-way bypass surgery. He returned to his Gig Harbor home on Wednesday to continue his recovery, which could take at least two months. He'll miss all of Spring Training, but hopes to be back on the job for Opening Day, March 31, at Safeco Field against the Rangers.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.