PEORIA, Ariz. — If you think 22-year-old pitcher Michael Pineda looks imposing while standing among his Seattle Mariners teammates, imagine what it must feel like to be in the batter’s box having to face his upper 90 mph fastball.
“When I was in there, I couldn’t see a
nything behind him. He’s big,” said infielder Josh Wilson, who faced Pineda on Monday during the team’s first session of live batting practice, when pitchers threw to the hitters instead of coaches.
Pineda is listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, and while he isn’t the tallest pitcher at spring training he’s got the most imposing combination of size and beef.
“If you’re going to build the perfect right-handed pitcher, I think he fits the mold,” Wilson said.
Pineda throws his fastball just south of 100 mph, but it’s his changeup and breaking pitches that make many believe he’ll win a job in the Mariners’ five-man starting rotation this year.
“He’s got that hard, heavy fastball and he backs it up with the offspeed stuff,” Wilson said. “Last year I played shortstop behind him in an intrasquad game and he struck out all three hitters he faced. He threw a couple of curveballs to guys and it looked like it was the first time they’d ever seen a curveball.”
Pineda threw 38 pitches Monday to five different hitters — Milton Bradley, Wilson, Mike Carp, Sean Kazmar and Franklin Gutierrez. Bradley got a feel for Pineda on the second pitch he threw.
While most hitters “tracked” pitches and didn’t swing, Bradley lashed at the second pitch Pineda threw. He broke his bat and fouled it into the netting of the batting cage.
His next turn at-bat against Pineda, Bradley watched four pitches before bouncing a grounder to second base.
Shortstop Jack Wilson, who has hit one home run since he was traded to the Mariners in 2009, showed some muscle when he cleared the left-field fence during batting practice against left-hander Garrett Olson.
While that ball was a bit of a fence-scraper, there was nothing cheap about what minor league outfield prospect Carlos Peguero did.
Veteran right-hander Manny Delcarmen threw a pitch up and out enough over the plate that the left-handed-hitting Peguero could extend his arms. He extended the baseball with a towering drive way over the right-field fence.
Interestingly, Delcarmen pitched without the protective screen in front of him that other pitchers used.
“I thought about that a few times today,” manager Eric Wedge said. “But that’s their choice and you’ve got to make sure they’re comfortable. If they’re not comfortable with the screen, you take a chance on them changing their arm action or doing something that might get them hurt. We don’t want to do that.”
One day after Wedge said he will have shortstops Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan work at both short and second base at spring training, that’s what they did during fielding drills Monday.
Also, Matt Tuiasosopo worked with the so-called lead infield group, fielding balls with Chone Figgins at third base before moving across the diamond and working alongside first baseman Justin Smoak.
Wedge said Tuiasosopo’s versatility — he also can play left field — will help him and others as he assembles the opening-day roster.
“We’re going to look at that right 25 that we can break with,” Wedge said, “and then make sure we have the depth that we can see around the corner, whether it be two weeks in or three months in. It’s not just about getting the 25 ready to break camp. It could be another 10 or maybe more players who’ll probably be playing for us, some for significant periods of time.”
Erik Bedard threw 33 pitches during live batting practice, with Ichiro Suzuki, Gabe Gross, Jody Gerut, Alex Liddi and Tuiasosopo mostly watching the baseball. The only swings off Bedard were by Liddi (actually a checked swing) and Tuiasosopo (a foul ball and a sharp grounder up the middle). … Another round of live batting practice is scheduled for today, with Felix Hernandez among those on the list of pitchers. … Besides some general soreness, the Mariners have gone through more than a week of spring training without injury. “Knock on wood, it’s early,” Wedge said. “They’re still knocking the dust off a little bit and going through some normal soreness here in camp. We’re going to keep giving them more and more, whether it be information or work or both.” … Infielder Luis Rodriguez arrived at spring training after being delayed in Venezuela because of visa issues.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog and follow his Twitter updates on the team at @kirbyarnold.