Face it: Headfirst slide not catcher’s best skill
BY RYAN DIVISH
TUCSON, Ariz. – Adam Moore’s day started with the excitement and anticipation of catching Felix Hernandez in a game for the first time in his career.
It ended with a handful of stitches in his chin, a scrape on his cheek and plenty of teasing from his teammates.
The rookie catcher, who’s pushing to make the 25-man roster and possibly be the opening day catcher – depending on the health of Rob Johnson – did a solid job catching Hernandez’s first exhibition start of the spring.
But it was a headfirst slide gone wrong that left Moore with stitches and will keep his teammates in stitches for a few days.
In the seventh inning of Seattle’s 5-4 loss to Colorado, Moore was trying to advance from first to third on Chris Woodward’s double to left center.
Moore saw the relay throw would make the play close, so he tried a headfirst slide. But he failed to get his hands in front and his face hit the dirt. When manager Don Wakamatsu and trainer Rob Nodine checked on him, Moore’s face was bleeding.
So just what was Moore doing with that slide?
“I saw the throw was to the right side of the bag and I wanted to hook slide to the back side of the bag,” Moore said. “But right as I took off, I stumbled.”
It was the second consecutive day for a Mariners runner to have a similar sliding miscue. Outfielder Eric Byrnes also had a face-first slide on Saturday in Peoria. Byrnes didn’t need stitches, just attention to his scrapes. Moore needed stitches in his chin, but he wasn’t sure how many.
“Three or four,” he said. “It was too painful to count. We are having sliding practice tomorrow and me and (Byrnes) are going to teach it.”
Actually, Wakamatsu and his staff don’t teach the players the headfirst slide.
“Can’t you tell?” Wakamatsu said. “I don’t know where that’s coming from. I really don’t. We played that Byrnes video on the way down, maybe that’s the wrong thing to do.”
Wakamatsu isn’t going to ban headfirst slides. But he’s hoping to see some better efforts.
While Moore’s slide will be an easy target for jokesters such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney – “I’m sure they will find out,” Moore said – the Mariners were more interest in seeing how Moore handled Hernandez.
“I thought Adam was good,” Wakamatsu said. “I don’t know who was more excited. He was pretty pumped up to catch Felix.”
It’s not easy. Hernandez’s pitches can break sharply.
“When he lets it go, that thing is moving at least seven inches and sometimes like a foot,” Moore said.
Moore had caught Hernandez in a bullpen session, but never in a game. And he saw a difference in velocity, movement and intensity.
“From his bullpen to the game, you can see it in his eyes,” Moore said. “In a bullpen he’s about 80 percent. But he gets into a game, and it’s full throttle. He’s not holding anything back.”
Moore mishandled only one pitch and that was a fastball that crossed up Hernandez after the signals. Moore called for a curve and Hernandez thought he was supposed to throw a fastball.
“He threw a 96 (mph fastball) cup high, so that was fun,” Moore said
Farewell to Tucson
Today’s game against Arizona could be the last time the Mariners play a game in Tucson for the foreseeable future. The Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, the last two teams training in the Tucson area, will move to a shared complex in Scottsdale next season, leaving Tucson without a team for the first time since 1947.
There has been some talk that four Japanese professional baseball teams may try to use the Tucson facilities next spring, and also play exhibition games against major league teams. The Diamondbacks have said there is a possibility they will play one or two exhibitions in Tucson.
Left-hander Cliff Lee
will make his second start of the spring for the Mariners in a 1:05 p.m. game against Arizona. The Diamondbacks will start left-hander Clay Zavada
. Lee is expected to go five innings or 60 pitches. Also scheduled to pitch for Seattle are left-hander Luke French
and right-handed relievers Shawn Kelley
, Chad Cordero
, Anthony Varvaro
, Ricky Orta
and Levale Speigner