Among the more excited – and exciting – pitchers in camp is 24-year-old right-hander Shawn Kelly, a genuine long-shot to make the team.
Unless you consider his arm.
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Kelly is a high velocity reliever with the stuff to make hitters miss, the kind of pitcher every team covets. He's survived 'Tommy John' surgery, and over the last two years he's climbed steadily through the Mariners farm system.
Three stops last season, and along the way he saved 15 games. In high Class A, he made 12 appearances – and didn't allow a run. That earned him 29 games in Class AA, and there he went 3-1 with a 2.11 earned run average and nine saves.
On the first day of camp Saturday, Kelly was one of the pitchers who threw a bullpen session, and believe it, he was closely watched.
"You don't evaluate too soon," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "But Shawn looked good."
Kelly was seriously pumped.
"I felt so good, and yeah, I had a lot of extra adrenaline," he said. "I mean, you're throwing in front of a big-league manager, a new pitching coach, a new team. When we got done, I called my wife. She was as excited as I was."
Kelsey and Shawn Kelly have been together for about six years, married the last 18 months. And for a pitcher who's gotten a lot of press in the past year, Kelsey has taken on the role of The Reader.
"She gets on the internet and finds the stories and will tell me a little about them but won't let me read them," Kelly said. "She keeps me level-headed, helps me avoid getting to pumped."
But throwing on Day One of his first big-league camp?
"She was as excited for me as I was," he said. "Usually, she's like, 'You've got to throw another session in two days,' but this time she just enjoyed the moment with me."
Whether Kelly pitches his way into the bullpen picture this spring or merely impresses and starts his season in, say, Tacoma, will be one of the stories worth watching.
For now, he's one of a group of young players whose enthusiasm seems catching. Kelly's a reminder of why we love spring training.