03/20/2013 2:13 AM ET
Mariners seasoning bullpen prospect Smith
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carson Smith has never pitched above Class A ball for High Desert, so the young right-hander knows his time with the Mariners is still on the horizon. But that hasn't stopped the tall Texan from making his mark in camp with a strong spring as he joins the growing list of power arms in Seattle's future bullpen mix.
Smith, 23, was the closer for High Desert last year and racked up a 5-1 record with 15 saves and a 2.90 ERA. With a mid-90s fastball and hard slider out of an unorthodox sling-shot delivery from a three-quarters arm angle, the youngster has given up just two hits and two walks over six scoreless Cactus League innings.
He was on the mound for a 1-2-3 ninth inning in Monday's 6-5 victory over the A's, getting the save as he struck out Oakland second baseman Scott Sizemore for the final out. And, yeah, that was a pretty cool moment for the eighth-round Draft pick out of Texas State University.
"I did that a lot last year and it was nice to have the same scenario and situation, while obviously facing a better group of guys," said the 6-foot-6 Smith. "I know the wins and losses aren't as important here in spring, but I took it just like a normal game and went about my business. It was a save opportunity for me and it worked out."
Manager Eric Wedge said there's a purpose behind having a youngster like Smith still on the roster and getting pressure situations.
"That was a great opportunity for him to pitch that ninth inning," Wedge said. "That's something we've been doing with a lot of different guys this spring, to give them that type of experience and that type of exposure in that type of setting. He's been very consistent all camp. He's been very impressive and he was again there.
"You're going to run through multiple pitchers, whether it be in the bullpen and probably even the starting rotation. You hope that's not the case, but that's just the reality of it. The depth we need to have and the ability to watch these guys pitch in these types of games in Spring Training is very important. It's great experience for them and it allows us to see them. Then when they do get the call, they should be that much more comfortable."
Smith figures to open the year at Double-A Jackson, which is where Carter Capps and Steven Pryor were pitching last year when they made their mark. There's no assurance Smith will follow that same fast track, but he's soaking up as much as he can this camp to prepare him for whatever comes next.
"It's going great," he said. "Every day is a blessing. I'm just taking it day by day though. I know I'm a young guy and have a lot of baseball ahead of me. But hopefully I'm trying to make a good impression here and maybe open some eyes and then whatever happens, happens."
As for his unusual delivery, Smith said he used to pitch from two arm slots, one high and one sidearm. In college, he eventually settled on a compromise between the two and tries to stay consistent from that arm slot now with all his pitches. It makes for a tough look for opposing batters, as the lanky Smith comes with a lot of arms and legs and his whipping arm motion.
So far, the Mariners haven't tried to change a thing.
"Honestly, I don't hear much about it," he said. "It's funky, but they don't want to mess with it. Most of the time they've just let me go with it and so far I've been somewhat successful. Unless I start failing, I don't think they'll change it."
Zunino among three trimmed from big league camp
PEORIA, Ariz. - Catcher Mike Zunino, the Mariners' first-round Draft choice last June, was among three players cut from the Major League camp Tuesday night.
Zunino and right-handed reliever Logan Bawcom were reassigned to the Minor League camp, while outfielder Eric Thames was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
Thames, as a member of the 40-man roster, has to officially be optioned. The other two were non-roster invitees and thus are just re-assigned.
Zunino, 23, hit .227 (5-for-22) with two home runs and three RBIs in 14 games this spring. Bawcom didn't allow a run in four innings of relief.
Thames, 26, was acquired from the Blue Jays in a trade for reliever Steve Delabar last July 30. He's played parts of the past three seasons in the Majors with a .250 batting average, 21 home runs and 62 RBIs.
But the Mariners have a crowded outfield situation this spring with the addition of Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, so Thames was a long shot to make the roster since he still has Minor League options.
The Mariners are now down to three catchers - Jesus Montero, Kelly Shoppach and Jesus Sucre. Seven outfielders remain: Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Carlos Peguero, Morse, Ibanez and Bay. They'll likely wind up with two catchers and five outfielders on their final 25-man roster.
Ryan sits with minor neck stiffness
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brendan Ryan was not in the Mariners' lineup Tuesday as he dealt with a stiff neck for a second straight day, but the veteran shortstop worked out normally and said he expects to be fine after the team's off-day on Wednesday.
Ryan missed several weeks at the end of the 2011 season with a neck problem, but said this was nothing like that and he just pulled himself out of workouts on Sunday in order to nip the issue in the bud.
"I just slept funny and woke up and it was a little stiff," he said. "I threw a baseball and felt it kind of pinch and thought, 'If I try to man up here, I'm just going to end up out a week or something like that.'
"So I just did the right thing, got off the field and they gave me a little stuff to stop the spasm. But it was nothing crazy. Nothing even close to what it was a couple years ago."
Ryan said he took part in all the baserunning and hitting work on Tuesday, but Brad Miller got the start in the evening game against the Giants. Robert Andino played shortstop the two previous games.
Ryan is off to a nice start this spring, batting .375 (9-for-24) in nine Cactus League games.
• Felix Hernandez shared a little of the wealth Tuesday as the Mariners ace had lunch catered in for the 150 Minor Leaguers in camp from Famous Dave's barbecue, with enough food brought in that most of the youngsters went home with leftovers in to-go boxes as well.
• Joe Saunders pitched in a Minor League intrasquad games on Tuesday morning and threw six-plus innings with eight hits, two runs, two walks and eight strikeouts on 78 pitches. He figures to get two more starts before his regular-season debut.
• With Minor League games in full swing now, Danny Hultzen threw three scoreless innings with one hit and four strikeouts in a 6-4 win for the Triple-A squad on Monday, while Gabe Guerrero -- the 19-year-old nephew of Vladimir Guerrero -- went 3-for-3 with a home run and double in the High-A team's 7-4 win.
• While the rest of the club is off Wednesday, Jeremy Bonderman will pitch in a Minor League game to stay on his schedule, then Jon Garland gets the start Thursday night against the Cubs, with Erasmo Ramirez also scheduled to throw in that one.
• In addition to Tuesday night's game, ROOT Sports will televise Mariners games on Thursday night against the Cubs and Saturday afternoon vs. the Indians. The final TV broadcast this spring will be the March 30 exhibition game against the Rockies from Salt Lake City.