Notes: France, Fraley impress; Elías exits

March 12th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Mariners’ matchup with the reigning National League Cy Young Award was arguably their biggest test of spring to this point, and it had a little bit of everything.

Seattle made Trevor Bauer labor to his 65-pitch threshold two outs before he was scheduled to leave after the fourth inning. They loaded the bases against him twice -- in the first inning with one out, at which point L.A. rolled the inning, and again in the second -- thanks in large part to four walks. They also notched two hits, including a booming ground-rule double from , part of a big night for a candidate for the left-field job. But they only had one run to show for it.

After the dust settled, the Mariners and defending-champion Dodgers -- who started many in their "A" lineup, including Mookie Betts and Corey Seager -- settled for a 4-4 tie.

“I thought our at-bats tonight offensively were awesome,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Really good. We were very patient. Bauer has got really good stuff. You're going to get a lot of breaking balls from him, both the sliders and the curveballs, and our guys laid off some close pitches there. It was great. We just keep grinding through it and kept the line moving. It's really nice to see. It's really cool. We put a lot of our right-handed hitters in there tonight, too. So, good challenge for them, and we did a lot of good things offensively tonight.”

Oddest of all things on Thursday was that Bauer appeared to have his right eye closed when he hit with a pitch. Bauer had been seen pitching with one eye closed in his previous outing, but he said after his start Thursday that the incident was unrelated and unintentional, and that his right eye wasn’t focusing well and that he tried to address it with "CO2 exhalation."

In the end, France reached twice and finished 1-for-2. He was one of 15 batters that Bauer faced, as the hot-hitting infielder flied out in his second plate appearance, then he singled against reliever Nick Robertson. He’s hitting .600 with a 2.000 OPS in seven games -- and he’s yet to strike out.

Elías exits early
Left-hander departed after facing just one batter during the fourth inning with discomfort in his pitching arm. After forcing a lineout from Gavin Lux, he called for trainers and handed the ball to Servais with little discussion. Servais didn’t have an immediate update or diagnosis postgame.

Elías has become a favorite to land an Opening Day gig among a crowded group of relievers vying for the five open spots in the eight-man bullpen. He’s back with the club for his third stint after signing a Minor League contract on Jan. 8.

Flexen progresses in second start
’s final 44 pitches on Thursday went far smoother than his first seven. The first-year Mariners righty walked the leadoff man Betts, then gave up an opposite-field homer to Seager to immediately fall in a 2-0 hole. But he recovered to retire 10 of his final 11 hitters -- and the one batter who reached, Betts, did so over a lengthy matchup that ended in a hit-by-pitch.

“After you give up a two-run home run and you have no outs, you’ve got to find a way to get it done,” Flexen said. “And my focus there was to keep trying to pound the zone and get out. … You're trying to do your best stuff, to get ahead on them, challenge them with a couple. He didn’t chase a breaking ball in the dirt. I threw a really good two-seam cutter just off, and I mean, he’s a great hitter. He knows his zone, and I didn’t get him to chase.”

Flexen hasn’t had a soft landing since coming back to MLB after a one-year stint in Korea. He faced the defending champs on Thursday and the White Sox, who have arguably the top lineup in the American League, last Friday.

Fraley’s big night
Snapping an 0-for-15 start to Spring Training, Fraley erupted for a 2-for-3 night, hitting the deep double off Bauer, then a towering, three-run homer in the fourth that cleared the right-field grass and landed on the mezzanine. The estimated distance was 446 feet with a 106 mph exit velocity.

This is the type of power that Fraley showed when he was the Mariners’ top offensive Minor Leaguer in 2019. But his struggles early in camp -- he had six strikeouts entering Thursday -- coupled with the breakout of Taylor Trammell had loosened his grip on being the favorite for the Opening Day left-field job.

Lewis renews contract for 2021
agreed to a renewal of the league-minimum contract he received during his 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Award-winning season, the club announced Thursday. Lewis was slated to earn the Major League minimum of $565,000 last season before proration due to the shortened, 60-game schedule.

Because Lewis has accrued barely more than one year of service time and is not eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2022 season, Lewis is among the category of players who can have their contract renewed for one year if the player and club cannot reach an agreement. Pre-arbitration players can negotiate their salaries but have little leverage, as clubs can choose to renew a contract for the league minimum.

The Mariners also announced that the rest of their pre-arbitration players on the 40-man roster agreed to 2021 contracts.