I work during the day time and don’t have TV anyway (we got rid of the cable box for a few months to try and save money), so if ESPN isn’t broadcasting Spring Training games streaming, I simply can’t listen to them. I have been trying to keep up via the Seattle Times with the goings-on of the team, but there seems to be more news than ever coming out of camp, and it’s been difficult to keep up with everything.
Brad Miller and Chris Taylor are fighting an important duel at shortstop, where they platooned last year. I have not heard how either of them are doing thus far, but I figure either way the team comes out a winner. I didn’t have any issue with how that position was handled last year, and while I realize that there are offensive and defensive issues depending on who you point the finger at, between the two of these guys, we’re not doing too badly. I know they want someone who is The Guy, and it will be interesting to see who that turns out to be, but things still feel strong, because regardless of who The Guy is, we have another Guy ready to back him up if need be. I’m kind of attached to Brad Miller, and if he picks up where he left off at the end of last year, so much the better. But really, I have no horse in this race. Whomever is the best is who I’m hoping they’ll choose.
The other cause for concern is catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino was terrible offensively last year, which is saddening, since we finally have a guy – a young guy who might stick around a while – who is not Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Miguel Olivo, or anyone else to whom the words “passed” and/or “ball” might be attached. For as little as I have been writing lately, I remain steadfast in my love for and confidence in Zunino. I want him to show his bat who is boss and really take charge at the plate; but if we have a solid number 9 hitter at .200 who is all business defensively, I’ll take that too. In the time I have been a Mariners fan, we have not really had a catcher like Zunino. Even Kenji Johjima – while pretty solid in that position – was extremely reserved in comparison. Zunino is everywhere back there. He runs for pop-ups that the third or first basemen could easily get. He throws himself over dugout bars, and into the crowd if he has to; usually without results because the ball is too far into the stands to catch, but he does it anyway, like a boss. He blocks the plate aggressively and with absolutely no fear. And this from a guy who only a few years ago was virtually unknown to most Mariners fans. I also drafted him at the season ticket holder draft event a while back, because everyone else at my table had already chosen, and I couldn’t decide. Zunino seemed too obvious at the time, but pressure from a friend made me write him down. When he was picked, I felt like I had won something personally (which of course I had, in the form of free hot dogs and decreased pricing on beer that day), and I think it remains so to this day (credit to my friends, of course, but still). If Zunino can figure out his at bats, he’ll have everything; the adoration of the fans (moreso than now!), the faith of Felix Hernandez…really, what more does a catcher need? Zunino is apparently trying to change his approach, which, according to this article by Ryan Divish, seems more of a mental than a physical issue for him. This is good, though, because it’s far easier to change the way you think about the game than it is to make your body do something it either can’t or won’t do. Wishing Zunino the best of luck; if he manages to transform himself into a better hitter, it will be a great story this year.
Taijuan Walker came into Spring Training like a lion this March, throwing two scoreless innings and giving up only one hit while nabbing two strikeouts. I think that the team favors him over Roenis Elias, and I think I do too. Nothing against Elias at all, but clearly the organization wanted to see what Walker’s first dive into the pool was going to look like, and I have to think they loved what they saw. I, sadly, missed his start due to a work meeting, but was able to join the game online around the 4th inning or so. I hope he leaves March like a lion, too. I would love to see him as a steady in the rotation finally. I have heard a lot of praise of his throwing via Twitter and radio, and am looking forward to seeing more of it for myself.
I am in Portland for a bit now, staying with my brother, who has TV. I have not yet been brave enough to check his cable set up to see if he gets ROOT, but hopefully I can watch a game tomorrow between the Ms and the Brewers. And if I can’t watch it here, I might actually see if there is a pub somewhere around for lunch and TV. I won’t be back in time for the game on Sunday unfortunately, so I want to try and get at least one in this week if at all possible. In the course of figuring out my work schedule for Opening Day, it came to my abrupt attention that it is now only 24 days away. TWENTY FOUR DAYS. I put the remainder of my payment for my tickets down tomorrow, my tickets for the home opener are already secured and ready to go. This is finally happening, and the next few weeks are going to be very exciting, I can almost not wait. But since I have to, I will. I will have to go into work for a few hours that Monday morning, since I have no backup for a part of my job that is specifically mine, but after that, it’s off to the stadium, where I will hopefully be able to live-Tweet and run into some friends for the early day game. I don’t have any creative way to end this post, so I’ll end it by stating the obvious, because I almost can’t believe it myself; Baseball is nearly back!