Normally with B games, you don't usually go to them when they are away from the complex. Time logistics of getting back for the regular game can make it difficult
But with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker both scheduled to pitch three innings in today's B game in Goodyear, the media made the trek over there to see them perform.
Neither was outstanding. And it's clear that both still need some seasoning in the minor leagues before they are ready to pitch for the Mariners.
Paxton made the start and looked solid in the first inning. He gave up a one-out double to right field on a fastball off the end of the bat off of Roberto Perez. But Paxton game back to get a pair of flyouts to end the inning. He threw just 11 pitches and eight of them were strikes.
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In the second inning, things fell apart for Paxton. After getting a lead-off pop up to get the first out, he gave up a single on a soft ground ball up the middle to Kyle Bellows. Paxton then walked Jeremie Tice on four straight pitches. With runners on first and second, he gotMatt Lawson (a one-time Mariners prospect acquired in the Cliff Lee trade) to hit a ground ball to shortstop. But Nick Franklin misplayed the ball to his backhand, loading the bases with no outs. Paxton got Jordan Henry to hit a perfect double play ball to shortstop. But Franklin failed to make the play again. Two runs scored on the play.
Paxton got the first out of the inning, getting the next hitter -Juan Diaz - to pop up to Dustin Ackley at first. However a first pitch fastball to Perez got too much of the plate resulted in an RBI single. Paxton got the second out despite hanging a curve ball to Chris McGuiness. Ackley gloved the hard ground ball for the out. But the defense let Paxton down again. Chris McDade hit a sharp ground ball to second base that got past minor leaguer Timmy Lopes. It was ruled a hit, but Ackley, Kyle Seager or many other advanced players make that play easily, but Lopes is only 18 years old and looked a little overwhelmed. Paxton finally but a band aid on the bloodletting by getting Anthony Gallas to ground into a fielder's choice to Franklin at shortstop.
All four runs in the inning were unearned. Paxton threw 36 pitches in the inning with 23 strikes. With his pitch count at 47 pitches, he was done for the day.
Walker came on in the third inning looking sharp. He got Gallas to fly out, struck out Bellows stringing and then froze Tice on a curveball for a punchout. He needed just 14 pitches - eight of them strikes.
In the fourth inning, the defense let Walker down. Lawson doubled over the head of left fielder Vinnie Catricala to start the inning. To be fair, Catricala isn't a natural leftfielder and misplayed the ball. Lawson scored moments later as Henry grounded a ball past Lopes at second - another glove that should have been fielded or at least knocked down. Walker gave up another single to put runners on first and second. He came back and blew a 3-2 fastball by Perez. But McGuinness scored another run on a sac fly to deep left-center. Walker ended the inning by striking out Gallas swinging. He threw 21 pitches with 15 strikes.
He was done for the day after 35 pitches.
Look, both pitchers are very talented. But they aren't close to being ready for the big leagues. Depending on what the Mariners do with Hector Noesi and Jeremy Bonderman, they could very well end up starting the season in Jackson and not Tacoma
Some people are concerned that Paxton's velocity on only 90-92. That's an issue. But his command of the pitch hasn't been very sharp this spring. His big 12-6 curveball has a lot of break, but he's had trouble spotting it. And his changeup has been average at best. Paxton has found himself pitching behind in a lot of counts and that's never easy no matter how good your stuff is. Also Paxton has struggled in what Eric Wedge often refers to as "damage control."
His last three outings ...
- vs Texas -- 2 innings pitched, 3 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks, 0 strikeouts, 1 homer
- vs. Oakland -- 2/3 innings pitched, 3 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 0 strikeouts
- vs. Cleveland -- 2 innings pitched, 4 runs (all unearned), 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts.
Walker has looked sharp at times and inconsistent at others. His fastball topped out around 96 today and he was usually around 93-95. He threw his cut fastball to lefties. It has good action, but it was catching a lot of the late. He threw his change-up as well. It has pretty good down movement. But it usually is around 84-85. He still has had some issues finding the feel with his curveball. And he needs that pitch because of its significantly slower than his other three pitches. Even Walker's change-up is relatively hard. Plus the curveball changes the hitters eye level. Once he gets the feel of that pitch, he will be so much tougher. But it's a work in progress. Though I thought it looked better than it has in his previous two outings.
As for Franklin, his play at shortstop was less than stellar today. A few scouts I've talked to believe he projects as a second base. They question his range and arm strength. This one game doesn't determine it. But I'm leaning toward agreeing with their assessment that Carlos Triunfel is better defensively. He is a little more athletic, has better range up the middle and has Rafael Furcal type arm strength. But Triunfel has his own issues as well.