PEORIA, Ariz. — Any slim hopes that Hector Noesi might have had about making the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation were likely lost in the chilly, swirling winds of Peoria Stadium on Friday as Noesi turned in yet another lackluster spring performance.
Under dark skies, with chilly temperatures and intermittent rain falling, he looked very much like a pitcher that is ticketed for a trip to Triple-A Tacoma. In two innings of work, Noesi gave up seven runs (six earned) on five hits, while walking two batters, hitting another and serving up three home runs against the Oakland Athletics.
The numbers won’t officially count because the game was rained out after four innings, but his showing won’t soon be forgotten by the Mariners’ front office or manager Eric Wedge.
“He has to figure it out,” Wedge said.
That’s something Noesi hasn’t managed to do since being acquired from the New York Yankees, along with Jesus Montero, in a trade for pitcher Michael Pineda.
Friday’s start began in positive fashion for Noesi, who got two quick outs and needed just six pitches. But with two outs, former Mariners catcher John Jaso lifted a decently hit ball to the gap in left-center, and with the winds howling in that direction, the ball kept carrying.
Left fielder Raul Ibañez and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez both slowed up thinking the other was going to make a play on the ball. The miscommunication allowed the ball to bounce on the warning track for a double.
Noesi could only shake his head at the mistake.
“Maybe it was the wind or whatever, and they got confused,” he said.
But he couldn’t shake the memory of that one mistake.
He served up a home run to the next hitter, Seth Smith, and Josh Donaldson followed with another homer.
It would only get worse. Noesi gave up a double to Daric Barton, hit Michael Choice and walked Shane Peterson to load the bases. It looked as if Noesi would get out of the inning, coaxing a soft ground ball from Andy Parrino. But Stefen Romero couldn’t glove the ball and another run scored. By the time Noesi got Eric Sogard to pop out, the A’s had scored five runs on two outs.
The second inning was more of the same. Noesi looked sharp while striking out Hiroyuki Nakajima and Jaso. But he fell behind 3-0 to Smith and eventually walked him. Then with a 0-1 count, he left a pitch up and over the plate that Donaldson crushed over the berm in left field.
“I tried to make my pitch inside,” he said. “I’m practicing (throwing) inside, I think it was a good pitch.”
Wedge might disagree with that assessment.
“It was just a lot of the same,” Wedge said. “He has to get over that hump. He gets a couple of quick outs that first inning, some things start to happen and it just dominoes on him. Same thing in the second inning. He gets a couple of outs, and then there’s a walk and a home run.”
But the issue goes beyond this one particular start. It’s starting to become a pattern for the 26-year-old right-hander.
It started last season. After two solid outings, Noesi’s inconsistencies got exposed. He had a habit of letting up after getting two strikes on a batter or two outs in an inning.
He made 18 total starts in 2012, posting a 2-12 record with a 5.82 ERA, and gave up 21 home runs in 106† innings pitched. With the Tacoma Rainiers he wasn’t much better, going 2-6 with a 5.74 ERA in 11 starts.
“He’s been around a little bit,” Wedge said. “He gained some valuable experience at the big league level. I think the big leagues showed him what he needs to continue to work on and it continues to show him.”
It’s not a physical issue as Noesi has quality big league-level ability. It’s just a matter of actually using it.
“His stuff is real,” Wedge said. “But it’s about executing your pitches, having conviction with your pitches, and that’s something we haven’t seen.”
Whether the Mariners see it is up to Noesi. It’s a mindset that has to be there each time he steps on the mound.
It’s not certain if Noesi truly understands that. When asked what he needs to do to make the starting rotation, he replied: “Keep my ball down and make my pitches. That’s the only thing they want.”
“It was my first year as a starter last season,” Noesi added. “Now I have more experience. I just have to work on my low pitches. That’s the only problem. Sometimes its my mechanics, sometimes it’s my pitches. I’m going to be consistent soon. I’m working for this.”
Hultzen OK, Romero hurt
Danny Hultzen threw a light bullpen session and felt no pain in his right hip flexor.
“He felt good, threw the ball well,” Wedge said.
Hultzen will throw a regular bullpen session Sunday and then get him back into Cactus League action.
While Hultzen is coming back, Romero will likely miss a few days. A day after hitting two homers and driving in seven runs, Romero strained a left oblique muscle while swinging at a third-strike curveball in the second inning of the game.
“It looked like it grabbed him pretty good,” Wedge said. “He’ll get it checked out and we’ll go from there.”
Because the game was canceled after four innings, the Mariners will play a “B” game today at 10 a.m. to make sure the scheduled pitchers get their work in. ... Casper Wells continued his hot hitting, bashing a solo homer to left off of A’s starter A.J. Griffin. Wells is impressing Wedge: “He’s in here with a head full of steam trying to make this team.” ... The Mariners announced that Jamie Moyer will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the home opener April 8 against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field. Moyer played with the Mariners from 1996-2006 and holds team records for games won (145), games started (323), innings pitched (2093.0), batters faced (8,802) and fewest walks per nine innings pitched (2.253).