Brash's spring finale likely cements rotation spot

No. 3 prospect Kirby also efficient against Rockies

April 2nd, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If Friday represented the final audition, Matt Brash checked just about every box, just as he has all spring. 

Seattle’s No. 6 prospect and baseball’s No. 98, per MLB Pipeline, carved through Colorado in 4 1/2 innings of a 2-1 loss with another impressive display of velocity, spin, swing-and-miss and navigating his way back into favorable counts after falling behind. 

It was his final Cactus League outing, given that Spring Training ends Tuesday. And, barring a major change in management’s thinking, or unless it makes a splashy -- and stunning -- trade, he’s in line to make the big league team as its No. 5 starter.

Asked if he felt he’s done everything to earn the opportunity, Brash kept things insular.

“I'm just trying to go out there and learn, man,” Brash said. “Like, I tried my best. I gave it everything I've got out there and yeah, I'm just enjoying this experience. Whatever happens, happens.”

So, if learning has been the objective, what has he learned about himself these three weeks?

“I think the biggest thing is that my stuff plays at this level,” Brash said.

The numbers certainly back that assertion. Brash surrendered just one run in three Cactus starts, and it came on Friday via a pitch that wasn’t exactly bad. Charlie Blackmon, one of the Majors’ best velocity hitters, connected on a 97 mph heater from Brash that was well above the strike zone, and would’ve been a ball, for a 376-foot shot in the third inning. But the former batting champion had worked into a fastball count and timed him up from their seven-pitch duel in the first.

A learning experience.

“I'm just trying to fill up the zone, especially up with two strikes,” Brash said. “But I’ve noticed that my fastball plays really well down in counts. Like, I'm going to get hit for a home run every once in a while, but that's just from being aggressive and trying to get back in the count and stuff. But I’ve been really happy with my fastball.”

Blackmon was one of many sluggers in Colorado’s "A" lineup, which also included Kris Bryant, Ryan McMahon, C.J. Cron and Brendan Rodgers. Cron tagged Brash for a double, but the rest of the Rockies went hitless, continuing a trend for Brash, who surrendered just three hits and struck out 12 this spring -- including five on Friday and the side in the fourth -- against 33 batters faced.

Even so, Brash felt he didn’t have the best command on his curveball Friday, which was another hurdle to clear.

“I think I kind of needed a game like that to scrap a little bit, battle when I didn’t have my best command. But yeah, it was nice to see I got some double plays. But I'm trying to get ahead. I would like to be a little more aggressive early in the count. It was nice to see that I battled and I got outs.”

Following Brash, in the sixth inning, was his piggyback mate George Kirby, who threw three scoreless innings and gave up just one hit. Brash stuck around to watch him before heading to the locker room.

“Really good outing by both those guys,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That’s the ‘A’ team that the Rockies ran out there. That's a really good lineup they have. They’ve got power. They've got experience. You saw them work the count on some of these guys. I thought George was the most comfortable we've seen him at any point this spring, which is great. They're gaining confidence and experience. We're going to need those guys at some point.”

The Mariners will take the coming days to finalize their roster and map out their rotation. The club’s pitching-heavy pipeline that has been all the rave in recent years appears to be on the cusp of graduating one to the Majors.