Ichiro back on the field? Yes!

Suzuki, former Mariners center fielder Cameron play in sim game

March 8th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The simulated game on a Mariners backfield on Sunday became a hotbed of nostalgia, with and suiting up, playing the outfield and taking live at-bats.

Ichiro took his first at-bat against No. 1 starter Marco Gonzales in the top of the second, which ended in a sky-high popup to left field and was followed with some humorous banter to the many Mariners players -- there exclusively to take in the fun -- watching from the bleachers.

Cameron followed the next half-inning and quickly struck out against new reliever Keynan Middleton, who brushed by some high-90s velocity past the 48-year-old. The former All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner laughed about the rush in adrenaline he had being back in the batter’s box.

“It’s one of those things where you try to make it as game-like, but when Ichi steps in, it all of a sudden changes the whole scenery of the game,” Gonzales said. “Even having him in right field, talking to him beforehand, he’s such a unique energy. It’s just very fulfilling to be around him because he’s such a pure baseball energy.

“I couldn’t help but smile. That’s probably the only time I’ll ever pitch with a smile on my face.”

So, why exactly were the stars of the 116-win team from 2001 on the field again?

The Mariners have 44 arms in Spring Training and are mapped out to pitch nine-inning games. However, other teams don’t have as much pitching to spread their innings in Cactus League games, which is why clubs were given the option to play shorter games.

But Seattle still needs to stretch out its arms to prepare for Opening Day, and since No. 4 prospect Logan Gilbert started Sunday’s Cactus game against the Angels, Gonzales still needed to face live hitters to get his work in. The Mariners have been trying to schedule “B” games with other West Valley teams, in addition to the Cactus slate, but haven’t been able to yet.

So, if sim games continue and manpower is needed, there could be more throwback vibes on the Peoria Sports Complex backfields moving forward.

“I knew Ichi was up for it today. When he went to the batting cages earlier today, I knew he wasn't just throwing BP,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “But it's great. Those are all-time Mariner greats. The guys that are in camp, they're really adding to our camp working with our young players and they want to have a little fun, too.

“The pitchers got to work in, everybody took it seriously out there. Those guys did as well. They just don't quite have the bat speed they used to.”