By Kirby Arnold
You know you’re at spring training when…
… 45 is not the temperature, it’s the SPF you’ll need to apply.
… you find a restaurant that has a 55-and-older menu, not a children’s menu.
… as much as you’d like 78 to be your golf score, it’s the next best thing: the high temperature.
… you walk into Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu’s office and have him show off a photo of a monster 13-pound Texas bass, then have him discuss the makeup of his starting rotation for 2010 (more on that below).
… a woman carrying a four-foot-long toothbrush walks into the Mariners’ clubhouse and you’re determined to find out what it’s doing there. Turns out an oral screening was part of the physical exams for pitchers and catchers today, and the big brush was a prop (what are the chances it becomes part of a bullpen ritual this year? I’m thinking pretty good).
… nineteen-year-old catcher Steven Baron, the youngest player in the big-league camp, is at his locker early in the morning with hardly anyone in the clubhouse, sitting there with his eyes and ears wide open. He has learned quickly that no matter what time he’s supposed to show up for work, catchers always arrive at least an hour before that.
… the Old Bats, that lovable group of dedicated women from the Seattle area, already are along the railing at the entrance to the players’ parking lot, saying hello to everyone who passes by.
… Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, so guarded this winter in articulating his enthsuiasm over the team he has assembled, can’t completely contain himself as he sees the looks of determination and expectancy in the players’ eyes. “It is about a four-letter word called TEAM,” Zduriencik says. “It’s that simple. It’s going to be fun to watch them compete. Where it takes us, it’s going to depend on the outcomes, but the journey is fun.”
… outfield prospect Greg Halman displays the bandage on his left hand, the product of hundreds of swings already that have raised a blister. He also shows off his newest tattoos, giving him 14 in all. “People say that when I get older it’ll look bad,” Halman said. “But when I’m 60, women won’t be interested in me anyway.”
… Ian Snell, the starting pitcher who’ll probably pitch in the third or fourth spot in the rotation, can’t quit smiling at his delight over being with the Mariners. A year ago with the Pirates, Snell’s mental spirit was an absolute mess. “I’ve told myself that it’s the beginning of my career again. I’m 0-0,” he said.
… the first official workout of spring training, on Thursday morning, features the first official bullpen session by Felix Hernandez.
Today begins the six-week process in which Wakamatsu and his staff must evaluate their players and make important decisions with a roster that seems set in all but a few areas.
Behind Hernandez and Cliff Lee, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Snell appear to have the third and fourth rotation spots in hand (not necessarily in that order). Who’ll be the fifth starter? That appears to be a derby among Doug Fister, Jason Vargas, Garrett Olson and Luke French.
There’s room for one, maybe two, long relievers depending on whether Wakamatsu chooses to begin the season with an 11 or 12-man pitching staff. If it’s an 11-man staff, there’s a little more hope to those competing for bench roles, guys like Matt Tuiasosopo and nonroster invitees Corey Patterson, Josh Wilson, Chris Woodward and Mike Sweeney. If it’s a 12-man pitching staff, those guys’ chances become much, much slimmer.
“I visited with the (coaching) staff yesterday and I told them there’s so many things we have to find out,” Wakamatsu said. “If we’re going to go with an 11-man staff, who are the long-man candidates? With the lack of roster spots, are we going to be able to see everybody and give everybody a legitimate shot? There’s all kinds of stuff we have to find out in the spring.”
The real work begins Thursday when pitchers and catchers start their first workout at 10 a.m. under what’s forecast to be blue skies and temperatures headed toward the upper 70s.