M’s reveal starting pitchers for first 3 spring training games

Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake and Felix Hernandez will get the ball as Seattle opens Cactus League play.

  • By Ryan Divish The Seattle Times
  • Tuesday, February 19, 2019 8:44pm
  • SportsMariners

By Ryan Divish

The Seattle Times

PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners have announced their pitching plan for the first three Cactus League games of spring training, which begin later this week.

Left-hander Marco Gonzales will get the start at Hohokam Stadium vs. the A’s on Thursday afternoon. First pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. Fellow lefty starter Justus Sheffield will “piggyback” off Gonzales in that game. The game will not be televised, but fans can listen to the live radio broadcast on ESPN 710 Seattle or at mariners.com.

“I’m looking for strikes,” Gonzales said. “It’s the basics. You want to be around the plate. You want to work on controlling the running game and fielding your position if you have to. You want to take the guess work out and attack the zone.”

Gonzales feels like he’s on schedule in his preparation.

“I feel strong,” he said. “I think it goes back to the offseason work I put in. Every couple of weeks or so when there’s another level, another increase in workload, you are making sure everything is working right and feeling right. Everything has been green light so far. I’m confident in it going forward.”

Right-hander Mike Leake will start Friday’s game at Peoria Stadium, which is also against the A’s, with right-hander Justin Dunn to follow. First pitch is set for 12:10 p.m.

Felix Hernandez will make his spring debut Saturday vs. the Padres also at Peoria Stadium. Left-hander Roenis Elias will follow Hernandez in the game. Both of the games in Peoria will be televised live on Root Sports, and the radio broadcast will be carried live on ESPN 710 and mariners.com (full schedule below).

“Marco and Sheffield will definitely pitch on Thursday,” manager Scott Servais said. “Weather doesn’t look good, so we may have to adjust. It’s supposed to rain pretty good on Thursday.”

Indeed, the unusually cold and wet spring in the Phoenix area hasn’t broken. There’s a 70 percent chance of rain. If the game is canceled, Gonzales and Sheffield would throw simulated games at the Mariners’ complex to get the work in. Servais was adamant that these threes starts are no indication of the starting rotation for the two games to open the season in Japan (March 20-21) or the home opening series vs. the Red Sox (March 28-31).

“We want to keep everybody on track right now,” he said. “There’s so much flexibility. Don’t read too much into things. No decisions have been made yet on how kind of map this thing out going to Japan, which will be different from when we open up at T-Mobile. Don’t think too far ahead.”

Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi’s plan is a little different from the other pitchers in the projected rotation. He will throw two live batting practice sessions before pitching in a game. Most pitchers are only throwing one. That would project Kikuchi to throw in a game late next week.

“Yusei, we’re going to do two live BPs with him, something we talked with him a little about,” Servais said. “He’ll be fine. He’s on track. Just a little more adjusting. Pitching in Arizona, the dryness, the new balls, different things like that. It gives him a little more time to work on some things. He’s good with it.”

The pitchers are expected to work two innings and around 20-25 pitches in the first outing.

As for the position players, the usage will be typical as compared to other early spring training games.

“Typically, we’re going to run them out there, give them a couple of at-bats, and get them out of there,” Servais said. “We’ll build them up after that. This short spring training for us, it’s great for position players. They’re ready to go after two weeks. That’s how I always felt as a player, and I think those guys agree with me. It’s about the pitchers and get the pitch count up. We’ll progress them along just like we always have.”

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