3/6/2014 3:43 P.M. ET
Rodney tips cap to good spring debut
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New Mariners closer Fernando Rodney took the mound for the first time in Cactus League action on Thursday, gave up a run in his debut and then explained both his late start and his tilted cap.
Rodney, 37, said he likes to begin a little later than most pitchers, particularly after overworking himself prior to last season with the Rays and then getting off to a rough beginning.
"Last year, I threw a lot," he said. "I threw in the Dominican. I threw in the Caribbean Series, I threw in the [World Baseball Classic] and I threw in Spring Training. I felt a little tired early in the season. But I recovered and came back, and this year is going to be different. I'm more fresh now."
Rodney, a 2012 All-Star with the Rays when he posted a 0.60 ERA with 48 saves, started out with a 5.40 ERA in his first 29 outings last season before finishing with 1.88 ERA over his final 39 appearances. He finished with 37 saves and 3.38 ERA before signing a two-year, $14 million deal with Seattle.
He gave up two hits and a run to the White Sox while pitching the fourth inning of Thursday's 7-4 win, but said all was fine as he worked on his fastball location in his initial outing.
"I feel strong," Rodney said. "I think I need more games now and keep working hard. That's it."
As for his cap, which he has famously worn at an angle with the bill sticking slightly to the left whenever he takes the mound?
Rodney said he began tilting his hat several years ago, about the time he started having more success. And he's not about to change now.
"That is something to confuse the hitter," he said. "They want to look at your eyes. They think I'm not looking at them. If they can't see your face, they don't know what you're going to throw. And the runner at first thinks I'm looking at them and sometimes they stop."
Anything for an edge, in other words.
"That's baseball," he said. "Every time you try to do something to improve. Every day you come to this game, you don't know what is going to happen. So that is what I do now and everything is working right. If they try to discover me, then maybe I'll try to do something different."
Walker plays light catch, feels good
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, the No. 6 ranked prospect in baseball by MLB.com, returned from a week-long layoff to rest his sore shoulder by playing some light catch on Thursday. And the 21-year-old said all went well after a frustrating seven days on the sidelines.
"It felt good, really good," said Walker, who was diagnosed with bursitis in his throwing shoulder last week after feeling soreness in the first two weeks of camp. "It was just 60 feet, so not really getting out there. But it was a test to see how I felt, and it felt good."
Walker is expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the regular season as he builds his strength back up. The youngster from Yucaipa, Calif., admitted he was anxious about even playing catch after the shoulder had given him problems ever since his arrival at camp.
"I was a little nervous about it, especially being out for seven days," he said. "I didn't really know what to expect. But I was pretty happy with the results."
The Mariners believe Walker just overthrew getting ready for camp, wanting to come in ready to compete for a rotation berth. Tests didn't show any structural damage last week, just inflammation, and the expectation is he should be fine once he builds his arm strength up again with a slow throwing program in the coming weeks.
Walker said he'll move back a little and play catch at about 75-90 feet on Friday and continue that process until getting cleared to throw bullpens and eventually pitch to live hitters in batting practice and simulated games.
Even being sidelined for a week was a tough pill to swallow for the youngster.
"It sucks being out for a period of time," he said. "It felt like seven days was months. I was getting bored at the end. I was looking forward to this day all week.
"I couldn't imagine being out longer, especially watching everyone go out there and compete and have fun. You're just sitting there. It's mentally tough because you want to be out there and push through it, but at same time you know you have to take it slow."
Walker started three games for Seattle at the end of last season and went 1-0 with 3.60 ERA in 15 innings. He was expected to earn a rotation berth this spring, but now will have to wait a little longer before cracking the rotation, if all goes well in the coming weeks.
Peterson enjoys big league experience, first hit
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- D.J. Peterson didn't get an invitation to Major League camp this spring, as the Mariners wanted to bring their 2013 first-round Draft pick back slowly after his jaw was shattered by a pitch last August, but the young third baseman got a shot in Thursday's Cactus League game against the White Sox and made the most of it.
The 22-year-old third baseman was one of several Minor League players who filled out the bench Thursday, and dropped an RBI single into center field in the seventh inning of a 7-4 victory at Camelback Ranch for his first hit with the big club.
"It felt great, just to have the opportunity after the big injury I had," said the former University of New Mexico standout. "For the skip to give me a chance to come up here and play was truly a blessing. It felt good. It felt awesome. I didn't square it up as I wanted to, but I got the monkey off my back."
Peterson, the organization's No. 3 ranked prospect in 2013, would have loved an invitation to the big league camp this spring, but he understood the Mariners' thinking. He's wearing a jaw protector that attaches to his batting helmet as a safeguard, but hasn't had any issues returning to action.
"It was a little nerve-wracking my first at-bat, but after that it's kind of like, it was a freak accident and something that happens to somebody maybe once in their lifetime and most people none," Peterson said. "It's a one in a million. So the nerves are gone and seeing the inside pitch is not a problem. I don't think about a thing. I'm just trying to help this team and drive in runs."
He did that with his seventh-inning single, which he hopes is the first of many with the Mariners.
"I've been champing since I've been here, watching all these big leaguers get to do it every day," he said. "It's been awesome. Truly a blessing. And I feel honored they've given me a chance to get out here."
Peterson spent the early part of the game watching Kyle Seager's every move at third base, how he positioned himself, how the White Sox pitched to him, what pitches he was sitting on. Then he found himself playing the same position for the final four frames, and was still pinching himself afterward.
"To be honest, I still have nerves right now," he said before heading to catch the team bus. "I'm still shaking a little bit. It's awesome being around these big league guys. I've been watching some of these guys for five, six years. I'd be lying if I said I'm not nervous at all."