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.
Noesi turned in yet another lackluster performance this spring. Under dark skies, with chilly temperatures and intermittent rain drops 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 A’s. Of course, the numbers won’t officially count since the game was cancelled after 4 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.
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He has yet to figure it out since being acquired from the New York Yankees along with Jesus Montero in a trade for Michael Pineda.
It all started off in positive fashion for Noesi. He got two quick outs, needing just six pitches. But with two outs, former Mariner John Jaso lifted a decently hit ball to the left-center gap. With the winds howling in that direction, the ball kept carrying. Left fielder Raul Ibanez 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.
He couldn’t shake the memory from his mind.
He served up a home run to the next hitter Seth Smith and Josh Donaldson followed with a solo 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 like 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 later walked him. And then with an 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 16 starts, posting a 2-10 record with a 5.69 ERA, while giving up 19 home runs in just over 91 innings pitched. The Mariners had seen enough and sent him to Tacoma where 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 value 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. 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.”
Will the Mariners see it?
It’s up to Noesi. As Wedge said, he has to figure it out. 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.”
If only it were that simple.
“It was my first year as a starter last season,” he said. “Bow 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.”