Quiet Canzone staying loud at the plate for Mariners

Stanek throws scoreless frame in spring debut with Seattle

March 18th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- carries himself more quietly than some of his Mariners teammates, but what he’s done with his bat this spring has been among the team’s loudest.

Canzone crushed his third Cactus League homer during Monday’s 9-5 win over the Rangers, a two-run blast in a 1-2 count against an elevated fastball from Texas starter Adrian Sampson that traveled 421 feet and had a 102 mph exit velocity, per Trackman data at Surprise Stadium.

“Just the ball flight more than anything, it's not rolling over as much,” Canzone said. “And just the emphasis on getting the ball in the air and getting some pitches up in the zone. So that's just worked. For me personally, that's where I can do the most damage, and just setting that tunnel there has been the biggest thing.”

In a quirky coincidence, it had carbon-copy similarities -- pull-side just to the right of the batter’s eye on the berm -- to a pair that his predecessor, Jarred Kelenic, hit in this same venue last spring. And Monday offered another reminder of how much has changed within the Mariners’ outfield alignment in the past 12 months.

Kelenic is gone and struggling mightily with the Braves, to the point where they signed veteran outfielder Adam Duvall last week to a one-year, $3 million contract to platoon with the former Mariners’ top prospect. Canzone, meanwhile, has quietly been one of Seattle’s most productive spring performers -- now 9-for-30 with three doubles, nine RBIs, nine strikeouts, two walks and three homers, tied for the team high.

Specifically, it’s with two strikes -- like Monday’s homer -- that the Mariners believe Canzone can take his biggest step forward, beyond the power potential after he added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason. In 59 combined games with Seattle and the D-backs last year, Canzone had a .462 OPS when behind in the count compared to 1.043 OPS when ahead.

“His swing decisions so far in Spring Training are the best they've been for him, ever,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said recently. “Hopefully he can maintain that throughout the season because when he swings [at] the right pitches, good things happen.”

With the Mariners’ offseason overhaul, headlined in part by Kelenic’s departure, Canzone has a clearer runway for playing time than at the end of last season, when he was used sparingly and off the bench in the final weeks.

Clarity has bred confidence, but so have results.

“I just feel way more stable in [the box], so I'm able to cover a little bit more than I was last year,” Canzone said. “I would just say the stability has been the biggest thing for me.”

Stanek makes Cactus League debut
has only finite time to prepare for Opening Day, having joined the Mariners on March 10 on a one-year, $4 million contract that includes $2 million in incentives, and Monday marked his first step.

Stanek threw a scoreless fourth inning with one strikeout to No. 9 hitter Justin Foscue while sitting in the high-90s with his fastball. The lone hit he surrendered, a leadoff single to Andrew Knizner, was after falling behind in the count.

“Two weeks feels still pretty quick,” Stanek said. “But no, I think a lot of it is that my body has bounced back good. So I've been able to push it a little bit better, or a little bit faster than normally I would try to.”

The Mariners have just eight spring games remaining, including a split-squad on Friday and two exhibitions in San Diego next week. The ideal situation -- particularly given that leverage relievers Matt Brash and Gregory Santos will begin the year on the 10-day injured list -- would be for Stanek to make at least two to three more outings.

Miller pivots to sim game
No team did more damage against Bryce Miller during an otherwise strong rookie season than the Rangers, who tagged him for 13 earned runs, 14 hits, three homers and a 1.283 OPS in two outings last year.

Couple those results with his workload situation, and the Mariners opted to skip his turn against the American League West rivals in Surprise and instead throw a simulated game in Peoria, where he pitched five half-innings with a break of 10-12 minutes in between while reaching his target of approximately 75 pitches.

The humorous highlight was when Miller accidentally hit Ty France with a sideways splitter and then laughed it off, after which France attempted to steal second base when Miller wasn’t holding him at first.