As Mariners pitchers and catchers go through their physicals today, the Seattle spring roster includes 35 pitchers - the largest group pitching coach Carl Willis has ever worked with - and will have only 39 days before flying to Japan.
“It’s going to be a challenge to see everybody,” the pitching coach said. “We’ve already set up three intra-squad games and they’ll each be eight or nine innings – and we might add a fourth game.
“Once we get through the first bullpen sessions and they each throw in batting practice, I’m going to tell them: ‘Be ready.’
“Whether it’s a 10:30 a.m. game against your teammates or a 1 p.m. game against the Colorado Rockies, they’re going to be being evaluated.”
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Those 35 pitchers include veterans and rookies, guys just trying to get ready for the season - Felix Hernandez - and guys trying to make a team. Twenty-five of those pitchers weren't in camp with Seattle a year ago.
With three exhibition games and two that open the regular season in Japan, the Mariners plan is to take the entire five-man starting rotation – in part as a precaution.
“You have to cover yourself,” Willis said. “If we take Felix and (Jason) Vargas over to start the first two games and leave the other starters here, what happens if somebody comes down with a tight back? Those games count.”