PEORIA, Ariz. – When you’re trying to win a big-league job in a camp filled with men who play your primary position – third base – games like this one let you sleep well.
Kyle Seager went 3-for-3 Sunday in Seattle’s 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres, hitting a home run and adding a two-out RBI single in the process.
Jason Vargas, who had worked five scoreless innings in a pair of intrasquad games, made his first Cactus League appearance and shut out San Diego for four innings as the Mariners ran their spring training record to 2-1.
After falling behind 0-2 in his first at-bat, Seager fouled off pitches, took pitches and worked the count full at 3-2.
“In that situation, he has to try to throw a strike, and he did,” Seager said of Anthony Bass. “I hit it out.”
In his second at-bat, the two Mariners ahead of Seager – Chone Figgins and Munenori Kawasaki – walked and, with two out, Seager singled home a run on the first pitch.
Why swing at the first pitch after back-to-back walks?
“The pitcher is trying to throw a strike, and I wanted to be ready to swing if he came in,” Seager said. “He did.”
For his third and final at-bat of the game, Seager singled off the first baseman’s glove, then trotted into the cluhouse with a .667 batting average after three spring games.
“You don’t get cut or win a job in one day,” Seager said. “It’s a process, but it’s nice to have a day like this. It’s nice to get results from adjustments I’m trying to make at the plate.”
As for Vargas, the left-handed No. 2 starter in Seattle’s rotation said his arm has gotten into shape quickly this spring and that he’s putting his pitches where he wants them.
“We came in early because we open the season on March 28, and we’re probably ahead of the hitters,” Vargas said. “I’ll take any advantage I can get.”
PLAYING SMALL BALL
Among the fundamentals Seattle worked on Monday were bunts, with all hitters working on sacrifices – and left-handed batters working on bunting for a hit against a dramatic infield shift.
Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, Dustin Ackley and Luis Rodriguez were among coach Mike Brumley’s pupils in the drill.
Journeyman Jarrett Grube gave up three runs in the ninth inning, then with two outs and the tying run at second base, got an infield popup that rookie shortstop Nick Franklin misplayed for an error that tied Sunday’s game. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Seattle ended it quickly: Mike Wilson singled and scored on Johermyn Chavez’s double. Catcher John Jaso drew a walk and stole a base, a reminder that he’s a backup catcher with speed. If Charlie Furbush is pitching for starting role this spring, it hasn’t shown yet – he’s pitched twice in intrasquad games, each time working an inning. And Sunday he made another appearance and again worked one inning. The rotation candidates appear to be Felix Hernandez, Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi, veteran Kevin Millwood and rookies James Paxton, Dan Hultzen and Taijuan Walker.
There will be two games today, one a 9 a.m. (PST), a “B” game in Goodyear, Ariz., against the Cincinnati Reds – with rookies Paxton, Hultzen and Walker expected to pitch for Seattle. In the scheduled Cactus League game, the Mariners will be the visitors in Peoria against the San Diego Padres, a noon (PST) game that will be broadcast on 710-AM. Probable starting pitchers: Iwakuma vs. Dustin Moseley.