3/1/2013 8:15 P.M. ET
Homer-happy Mariners enjoying early results
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. - As the Mariners continued mashing the ball Friday to improve their Major League-leading slugging percentage and home run total in an 8-6 win against the Rangers, the obvious question is what this early offense means.
Cactus League results don't always carry over to the regular season, and certainly their seven-game win streak won't mean anything once games begin to count in April. But the Mariners are happy to be hitting the ball with authority -- with four more home runs increasing their total to 18 in eight games -- even while keeping it in perspective.
"We're still working on trying to get some timing, and the results are kind of secondary," said outfielder Jason Bay, who hit his second homer of the spring in a 2-for-2 day with a walk. "But at the same time, as a competitor, it still matters.
"You want to do well and get your work in and all these things. It's almost a little unrealistic the way it's been going, but I don't think it's by accident. I think guys are putting their time in. It's a little foolish to think it's going to happen every single game, but we'll take it while we can get it right now."
Michael Morse hit his first home run of the spring to join the hit parade and said players seem to be feeding off each other and finding comfort in the improved lineup.
"I think the atmosphere has definitely changed from the last couple years," said Morse, who played for Seattle from 2005-08. "Guys are definitely more relaxed, and when you're relaxed, your talent comes out."
The Mariners racked up 13 more hits Friday and now have 81 hits and 48 runs during their seven-game win streak.
Bay and Michael Saunders both hit opposite-field shots Friday, and Carlos Peguero drove a single the other way to left in the fifth after launching his third home run of the spring to right in the second.
"I think you just have to look at the way they're squaring up the baseball," said manager Eric Wedge. "We've got guys with the power to hit home runs, they just need to be more consistent with hitting the ball hard all over the place. What's been impressive to me as much as anything is just the way we've been driving the ball the other way.
"We've got a lot of young guys that have gained a great deal of experience the last year or two, and that's showing itself to us. And obviously, the veteran guys we brought in make a big difference, too."
Maurer throws two scoreless, Paxton struggles
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brandon Maurer, a 22-year-old prospect who is quickly rising up the Mariners' ranks, pitched two scoreless innings and earned a victory in Friday's 8-6 win against the Rangers.
Maurer pitched the third and fourth innings after fellow prospect James Paxton allowed three runs on two walks and two hits -- including a two-run home run by Mitch Moreland -- in the first two frames.
Maurer now has three shutout innings to his name in the early going, though he needed a sliding catch by left fielder Carlos Peguero with the bases loaded and two out to escape trouble in the fourth.
"I was rushing there in my second inning," Maurer said. "The game kind of sped up on me, so I need to just take a breath next time. There are some big league guys in there. So I just need to settle down and not worry so much about the name on the back and just go out and attack them."
Paxton also dealt with some nerves in the first Cactus League start of his young career and figures he'll be better for it in the future. He continues working on his changeup and feels that will be an important weapon in his arsenal.
"Obviously it wasn't ideal for me today, but I feel like I'm learning," the lanky left-hander said. "They had a pretty good lineup. I threw some good changeups, but I was kind of falling behind in the count and having to work back with fastballs, and that doesn't really work when you get to this level."
Capps' escape against Giants impresses Wedge
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carter Capps wiggled himself into a little trouble in Thursday's game against the Giants, allowing back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning while looking to preserve a 4-2 lead.
But what the hard-throwing right-hander did next opened a few eyes, as Capps dug in and struck out the next three batters with his upper-90s heat. It was the kind of outing that reminded the Mariners what they have in the lanky 22-year-old from North Carolina.
"Obviously he's got that live fastball," said manager Eric Wedge. "And when you get into those situations, you have to rely on it a little more to potentially get a strikeout. You either want a strikeout or double play with that lead batter, but he was able to get the three strikeouts and leave 'em all out there. That's pretty impressive."
While some hurlers are working on things this time of spring, getting their timing down or perfecting secondary pitches, Capps has no such illusions about his Cactus League appearances.
"It's exactly like a regular game for me," said Capps, who pitched in 18 games for Seattle last year after getting called up in August. "I've got to make the team, so I'm going out there pitching like it's the World Series. Obviously, I got the ball up against the one guy, and the other guy got kind of a bloop hit, but other than that, it was a good outing."
Capps now has thrown two innings of scoreless ball as he makes his bid for a setup job in the Mariners' bullpen. There's a long way to go this spring, but he appears to be throwing as well as anyone in camp.
"I feel good," Capps said. "I feel strong. I'm ready to go."
• Hisashi Iwakuma will start Saturday's game against the Dodgers at 12:05 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium, and he is expected to throw two innings. He'll be followed by Jeremy Bonderman, who will also throw two innings in his second appearance of the spring.
Former Mariners closer Brandon League is among the pitchers slated to throw in relief for the Dodgers, who will start lefty Chris Capuano.
• Left-hander Joe Saunders is scheduled for his first start in Sunday's game against the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., at 12:05 p.m. PT. Saunders threw one inning of relief Tuesday against the Brewers and will go two frames in this one, as will Hector Noesi.
• ROOT Sports will broadcast the first of its six televised games this spring Monday, when the Mariners host the Rockies in a 12:05 p.m. PT game that will also be avalable on MLB.TV. Jon Garland, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker are all expected to pitch in that contest.
The other TV games this spring will be March 17 against the Rangers, March 19 against the Giants, March 21 against the Cubs, March 23 against the Indians and March 30 against the Rockies. The Giants and Cubs games are night contests, while the others are afternoon starts.