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Notes: Dunn's spring rematch; Lopes hits ropes

@gregjohnsmlb
February 26, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Justin Dunn hasn’t forgotten his first Major League start last September, but he did finally have a chance to erase some of the difficult reminders of that rugged night at T-Mobile Park in Wednesday’s 5-3 Cactus League victory over the Reds. The Mariners' rookie got just two

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Justin Dunn hasn’t forgotten his first Major League start last September, but he did finally have a chance to erase some of the difficult reminders of that rugged night at T-Mobile Park in Wednesday’s 5-3 Cactus League victory over the Reds.

The Mariners' rookie got just two outs on that Sept. 12 outing last season, walking five batters and allowing two runs in a wild 37-pitch debut against the Reds in an 11-5 loss.

Fast forward to Wednesday and there was Dunn, on the hill for his Cactus League debut against those Reds. Only this time, the promising 24-year-old right-hander unleashed a 94-96 mph fastball while striking out two -- including Joey Votto -- in the first inning.

It was a far different looking Dunn, who is ranked as the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, as he continued showing a number of adjustments he’s made since last September. While most of those changes were mechanical tweaks, his mental game clearly has progressed by leaps and bounds as well.

“It was a little redemption for myself,” Dunn said. “I was excited when I saw I had this lineup, so I could come out and kind of show them who I really am because they didn’t get a chance to see it in Seattle. So it was good for me to build off it and really attack those guys.”

Dunn’s fastball dipped to the 92-93 mph range in the second inning when the Reds nicked him for a run on two hits and a walk. He said he probably had too much adrenaline in the first and threw too many pitches warming up.

But the first inning showed the kind of power pitcher the Mariners saw at Boston College as well as at Double-A Arkansas last year.

“That’s me. That’s who I am,” Dunn said. “In college I was 94-97 [mph] as a starter, and that’s where I want to be. I feel like I’m moving the right direction, being there every time. Once we get the legs built up and the strength back, and start building the stamina in the arm, it’ll stay there for a full game. That’s usually what I expect out of myself every time out.”

Dunn's chances of opening with the club slipped when veteran Taijuan Walker signed as a free agent just before camp opened, but clearly his time is near.

“I was really impressed with Justin today,” manager Scott Servais said. “Just his whole demeanor, attacking with his fastball early in the ballgame was great to see. He feels good about where he’s at right now.”

More ropes for Lopes
Mariners utility man Tim Lopes continued his hot start as the 25-year-old came off the bench to hit a pair of doubles in two at-bats and is now 5-for-5 with four doubles and five RBIs in three games.

“I think Tim is leading the league and the world in doubles right now,” Servais said.

Lopes hit .270/.359/.360 in 41 games last season as a rookie, with seven doubles and a homer in 111 at-bats. He’s competing with Dylan Moore, Patrick Wisdom and Sam Haggerty for what figures to be the final roster spot this season.

Mitch Haniger set the Mariners’ Cactus League record for doubles with 11 in 2017, in 78 at-bats over 24 games.

Moore leaves game after banging head
Moore, who also has hit well in his initial outings this spring, singled and stole second after pinch-hitting in the sixth inning. But the 27-year-old had to be taken out of the game after smacking his head into the knee of Reds shortstop Christian Colón on his stolen base.

“He said he got a little dizzy, so it was precautionary," Servais said. "It’s early in the spring, so we got him out of there. Hopefully he’ll be OK and we can get him back in there tomorrow.”

Julio still seeking first hit
Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ promising 19-year-old outfield prospect, got his first Cactus League start and went 0-for-2 with a popout and a groundout after being grazed on the hand by a Sonny Gray fastball in his first at-bat.

Rodriguez, ranked as the club’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in three games this spring. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder struck out on a 94-mph fastball from Lucas Sims in the sixth, but he has primarily been dealing with a lot of offspeed offerings early on.

“Julio is going to see that a lot,” Servais said. “It’s those big guys that can hit it a long way, they usually try to see if they can handle the breaking stuff. Julio again is young and hasn’t seen as many as some of our older players. But he’ll catch up quickly because he’s going to get a steady diet of that stuff.”

Up next
Lots of eyes will be on top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert as he makes his first Cactus League start for the Mariners at 12:10 p.m. PT on Thursday in a split-squad game against the Giants at Peoria Stadium. Listen on Gameday Audio as Gilbert will likely throw just an inning in his first outing, with Carl Edwards Jr., Sam Delaplane and Rule 5 Draft pickup Yohan Ramirez among the relievers to follow. Right-hander Ljay Newsome will start the other split-squad game at 12:05 p.m. PT against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. Watch the action on MLB.TV.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.