Rain throws curve into Mariners' plans
Pitchers throw bullpen sessions, but drills scratched
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners bench coach and camp coordinator Ty Van Burkleo has spent a lot of his time the past two days studying weather forecasts. Too much time.The so-called Valley of the Sun has been more like Valley of the Rain. Overnight showers left puddles of water on all six practice fields Sunday and, for the second consecutive day, limited the amount of work Mariners pitchers and catchers could get in during the fourth full day of Spring Training workouts. "If you are going to have a rainout, now is probably the best time to have it," Van Burkleo said at a thoroughly drenched Peoria Sports Complex. "Hopefully, we don't get too many rainouts, especially in the next couple of weeks before the [Cactus League] games begin. Right now, we can handle it a little easier because it's just pitchers and catchers." The posted schedule Sunday included "comebackers, no one on/runner at second"; "first and third early break"; "cover first on 3-6-1 double play"; and "signs and pickoffs." All four drills had to be scratched because of the wet field conditions. In their place was a two-hour, getting-to-know-you-better meeting. "I think there is a lot you can accomplish in these rain days," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "We had about a two-hour meeting today and it's nice to hear some of the guys who went through what we did last year talk about it, and also have Cliff Lee talk about his experiences in the World Series." A team meeting that was supposed to last about 30 minutes turned into a bonding session. Afterward, pitchers that were scheduled to throw a bullpen session were able to do it, and that was another ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day. But at some point, and preferably real soon, getting back on the practice fields will be become paramount. "The main thing is to make sure the pitchers get their bullpen work in," Van Burkleo said. "The catchers can get their work done in the cage. This [rain] forces you to miss out on some of the fundamental defense and other things we are trying to implement this year, but we still have time to get that done. "When you have guys trying to build up their innings, and you are losing games due to rain, that's when it really can affect you." The Mariners' first full-squad workout is scheduled for Tuesday with 62 players expected to be in uniform. Minor League pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, a waiver claim from the D-backs, has not yet reported because of unspecified "personal matters" in Venezuela. Van Burkleo has his fingers crossed that El Nino, a climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean on average every five years and causes more than normal rainfall in the Southwest, lets up for at least the next two weeks and preferably longer. "We have a lot to cover in a short amount of time," he said, "and if we get a bunch of rain, it will mean longer days. It's one thing to cover things in meetings, but you want to execute the fundamental drills on the field the way you want it done in games before you feel comfortable that [the players] have it down." The Mariners are making some changes this season in how they handle their bunt plays, and with so many new players on the team, the three most important words in camp could be practice, practice, practice. The key word for Van Burkleo could be "adjust." Each day's practice scheduled is mapped out minute-by-minute, and losing time to bad weather can really mess things up. Inclement weather during Spring Training was not a factor last year in Arizona, the first year Van Burkleo handled the camp-coordinator duties in the Major Leagues. "You have to be a good multi-tasker," he said. "I have so many different things I have to remember that tie into each other, whether it is blood work the next day, pictures, or whatever. As far as the scheduling goes, we will have 63 players in camp, 20 staff members, groundskeepers that you have to be on the same page, and the clubhouse guys that need to know where to take the equipment." Wakamatsu has previous camp-coordinator experience with the Rangers and Athletics so he understands what the job is all about. "It's a big responsibility," he said. "I think if you put it in perspective, you have to design a schedule on one piece of paper that lets close to 100 people know where they are supposed to be at any time of the day in a language players can understand is pretty daunting. The biggest thing is you can't miss anything, which is not easy to do because so many things are going on." Planning ahead helps a lot. "I am pretty far ahead right now," he said. "I have some tweaking of the schedule to do, but I'm on day nine and [Sunday] is day four. The full-squad days aren't final yet, but the structure is there. I have a little breathing room. "I would hate to be here right now and not have tomorrow ready. I like to stay at least two days ahead." And hope like heck that Mother Nature doesn't throw a curve at him.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.