Notes: Marco gets ball for spring opener

Dunn flashes improved stuff; France working the hot corner

February 27th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- will get his first tuneup ahead of his Opening Day start when he takes the hill as the Mariners’ first pitcher in their Cactus League opener against the Padres, manager Scott Servais announced Friday.

Gonzales will be on a two-inning, 40-to-45-pitch threshold, and he’ll be followed by a combination of Kendall Graveman, Keynan Middleton, Anthony Misiewicz and likely a few additional players that were undetermined on Friday. But with a full stable of healthy arms, the Mariners and Padres have agreed to play a nine-inning game.

According to the 2021 operations manual, games may be shortened to five or seven innings upon mutual agreement of both managers. Games from March 14 through the end of Spring Training can be shortened to seven innings under the same stipulations. Clubs that wish to modify its scheduled game lengths will have to notify MLB before 5 p.m. ET the day before the game.

First pitch on Sunday between the Peoria Sports Complex cohorts is slated for 12:10 p.m. PT, with an audio feed provided live through MLB.TV. Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will start the Mariners’ second Cactus League game on Tuesday after the club’s off-day Monday, and the Mariners have begun the process of communicating with Cleveland about playing a nine-inning game instead of seven.

Dunn Ks side in first live BP
Justin Dunn came into camp 10 pounds trimmer and with an uptick on his fastball velocity, and he flashed some of his new-look stuff by striking out the side in one inning’s worth of live batting practice. Dunn punched out Kyle Seager and Evan White swinging on high-90s heaters, then J.P. Crawford to swing on top of his impressive -- and newish-look -- breaking ball down.

It’s merely his first live session, but Friday represented some validation to what Dunn enters 2021 hoping to accomplish: higher velocity that will help him miss more bats, and more differentiation between his breaking pitches.

“Dunn looks really good,” said Cal Raleigh, who caught Dunn’s session on Friday. “It was the first time I’ve caught him this camp. Definitely, you can notice a difference. His velo is definitely up. He's in a good mindset, and I'm excited to see what happens this year. The curveball is definitely different than the slider. Obviously, he likes one better than the other, to put it one way, but they look different.”

France seeing most infield reps at 3B
Ty France
is locked into the Mariners’ everyday lineup at designated hitter, and his bat might be one of the most consistent on the team. All of that gives him ample opportunity this spring to take infield reps across the diamond and prepare for wherever he might be needed, since it could be everywhere but shortstop.

France is already becoming acclimated with renowned infield coach Perry Hill, who the Mariners hope can work his magic to help France’s elite bat catch up with his progressing glove in a way Hill did with J.P. Crawford and Shed Long Jr.

“This guy is a ball of energy,” France said. “He loves being out here and was happy to be back out. He just has so much knowledge. It's a little bit different than what I was taught in San Diego, but I'm picking up on it pretty quick and excited to see how it goes.”

Profiling more as a third baseman, France has received the bulk of his reps so far at the hot corner, working closely with Kyle Seager, who could be entering his final year with the Mariners if the club does not pick up his 2022 club option.

“Awesome,” France said of his work with Seager. “I’ve been really lucky. I had Manny [Machado] over there in San Diego, and Seags over here. So, I've had two of the best third baseman tours a young guy can have."

France will also see action at second base and could serve as an insurance option at first on days Evan White rests.