Notes: Many catchers, little time
Mariners must do juggling act to get backstops enough work
PEORIA, Ariz. -- There are seven catchers in the Mariners Spring Training camp, which is not unusual for any Major League team. Teams need a surplus of catchers because there are so many pitchers in camp.
But Seattle is unique in that two of the receivers are genuine big-leaguers and two others close.
"In most camps you have two catchers you want to get in shape and get a look at your guys," manager John McLaren said on Sunday, "but we've got four guys."
Veterans Kenji Johjima and Jamie Burke are one-two on the depth chart and will begin the regular season on March 31. But standing in the wings are Jeff Clement and Rob Johnson."We think a lot of them both and they're knocking on the door," McLaren said. "It's kind of a balancing act trying to get everybody some playing time." With a "B" game scheduled for Wednesday and split-squad games on March 9 and March 17, there are enough innings to keep the catchers busy. But lack of innings will become a factor as the number of pitchers in camp, currently standing at 28 counting nine non-roster invitees, dwindles to the Opening Day number, which will be either 11 or 12 hurlers. McLaren said he wants to give Johjima and Burke plenty of work with the five starters so they are on the same page from the outset. Another must is catching knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey. Johjima, who never had caught -- or tried to catch -- a knuckleball prior to this spring, will catch Dickey in Tuesday's Cactus League game against the Athletics in Phoenix. The third-year catcher from Japan also has been working on his offense, using more of the field and concentrating on pitch selection. "Sometimes Joh gets so fired up he swings at pitches he shouldn't swing at," McLaren said. "He's been working on some things and I've seen some positive [results]." It was pointed out to McLaren that Johjima has not yet swung at the first pitch in an at-bat. "Give him time," McLaren laughed. "We know it's in the cards." As with all hitters, "All we ask them to do is hit better in hitters' counts," he said. "When you've got the count in your favor, utilize it."
Silva sparkles: Showing the tenacity that he says is "normal," right-hander Carlos Silva tossed two scoreless innings against the Padres in his Mariners debut, a 6-2 victory Sunday.A pitcher known for putting the ball in play instead of piling up walks and strikeouts, Silva walked the first batter he faced on Sunday and struck out the second. "That's good, something different," he said, smiling. "I feel very good. I didn't have good command, but that's going to come. The good thing is that I feel really good, really strong." Finding the proper amount of emotion wasn't a problem. "I was fired up," he said. "I was concentrating like this game was my first start of the season. I was excited. I was looking at that clock all morning. It seemed like that clock wasn't going to move." Next big step: Right-handers Chris Reitsma, Mark Lowe and Jon Huber, along with left-hander Arthur Rhodes, took another step on their rehab from injury on Sunday by throwing live batting practice for the first time this spring. "Reitsma threw the ball extremely well," McLaren said. Gotcha! Left-hander Ryan Feierabend walked the first hitter he faced in Sunday's game, but as he often does, he picked the runner off first base. "Our daily fundamentals sometimes consist of pickoffs and rundowns, or working on different back-door plays, so anytime I get a chance in a game down here, I like to try it," he said. The runner, Luis Rodriguez, who broke for second base as Feierabend threw to first, was an easy out at second for the first out of the scoreless inning. Two for one: The two home runs by Wladimir Balentien hit during Saturday's game against the Padres marked the first time a Mariner has gone deep twice in the same Cactus League game since Ben Broussard did it last March 26 against the Rangers -- his new team. Prior to Broussard's big spring day, Quentin McCracken was the last to have a two-homer game in Spring Training, on March 13, 2004. Up next: It will be like old times for managers McLaren and Lou Piniella on Monday when the Mariners and Cubs meet in a Cactus League game at Peoria Stadium. Both were with the Reds, Mariners and Rays, parting ways when Piniella opted out of the final year of his contract as the Tampa Bay manager. McLaren scouted for the Rays in '06 and became the Mariners' bench coach prior to the '07 season, deciding to return to Seattle rather than accept an offer to accompany Piniella to Chicago. Left-hander Jarrod Washburn makes his first "official" start this spring. He pitched two innings in a charity game against the Padres.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.