PEORIA, Ariz. — San Diego starter Freddy Garcia wasn’t surprised when Raul Ibanez sent his first-inning pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run home run.
Ibanez’ first hit of spring training got the Mariners on the scoreboard early, helping Seattle to an 8-3 win over the Padres on Sunday.
The moment brought back memories of a one-sided competition between pitcher and hitter.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve faced him,” the 36-year-old Garcia said, “(He’s hitting) at least, like .500. Maybe 40 at-bats, 25 hits, something like that. It’s crazy.”
Actually, Ibanez has scorched Garcia even worse than the right-hander remembers. In 34 regular-season at-bats, Ibanez has 19 hits for a .559 batting average and five doubles, a triple, home run and 10 RBIs.
Ibanez, who will turn 41 this season, remembers his battles with Garcia not as a hitter dominating a pitcher, but rather just finding a way to reach base.
“I got lucky a few times off of him,” said Ibanez, who went 2 for 3 against the Padres. “Literally, it was one of those things where it went off the end of the bat and found a hole or if I chopped one, chopped on the plate and I’d get to first.”
On Sunday, no luck was involved. Garcia allowed hits to the first two batters before Ibanez deposited a sinker onto the lawn beyond the right-field bullpen.
“I was just looking for a pitch I could hit hard somewhere,” he said. “I thought he might throw something else. With him, he throws so many different pitches — a great fork ball, split thing — I was able to get the fat part of the bat on it.”
Seattle outfielders Michael Morse and Michael Saunders followed with back-to-back doubles before Garcia recorded his first out, a strikeout of designated hitter Jesus Montero.
Garcia, who signed a minor-league contract with the Padres in January, threw one inning, allowing five hits and four earned runs in his first outing for San Diego. The 14-year veteran knows he must pitch better to secure a spot in the rotation.
“I need to pitch good to be on this team,” Garcia said. “Fighting for a spot, I need to show the people I can still pitch.”
Garcia pitched in 30 games and started 17 last season for the Yankees, going 7-6 with a 5.20 ERA. Garcia no longer possesses a blistering fastball, but Ibanez believes he can still help a team. The two have been teammates three times — twice with Seattle early in Garcia’s career and last year with the Yankees.
“He’s a great competitor and I have the utmost respect for him because I’ve seen him where he’s successful, throwing 97-98 mph,” Ibanez said. “He’s learned how to be successful throwing 87.”
Ibanez, meanwhile, seems to have come close to solidifying a spot on Seattle’s roster as a part-time outfielder and designated hitter thanks to his professionalism and leadership. Mariners manager Eric Wedge has been vocal about wanting those qualities on his team.
“The way he competes, the way he goes about his business,” Wedge said of Ibanez, “he’s going to give himself a chance each time he goes up there.”
NOTES: Seattle 2B Robert Andino went 2 for 3 with a double and run scored. . San Diego DH Mark Kotsay went 2 for 2. . Seattle SS Brendan Ryan and 2B Dustin Ackley will make their spring debuts Monday against the Los Angeles Angels, Wedge said. Ryan and Ackley were held out of the first three games to have extra time to recuperate from offseason surgeries. . On Monday, RHP Jeremy Bonderman is scheduled to start for Seattle against the Angels and RHP Edinson Volquez will start against the Milwaukee Brewers.