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Unsworth appreciates bid to make Mariners

Right-hander looking to make Majors history for South Africa
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Of the 62 players in Mariners camp, none seems to have a bigger smile or better appreciation for the opportunity than Dylan Unsworth.

The 25-year-old right-hander from South Africa has pitched well in his initial opportunities. But for Unsworth, just being in his first big league camp has been an eye-opening experience that he's soaking up with refreshing relish.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Of the 62 players in Mariners camp, none seems to have a bigger smile or better appreciation for the opportunity than Dylan Unsworth.

The 25-year-old right-hander from South Africa has pitched well in his initial opportunities. But for Unsworth, just being in his first big league camp has been an eye-opening experience that he's soaking up with refreshing relish.

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"It's taken me eight years," Unsworth said. "I came in when I was 16 years old, and for eight years, I've seen what it takes to get to this side. There's nothing like putting on a Major League jersey. Just being here is an amazing feeling. Just being with all those guys and taking everything in every day and learning."

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Unsworth is attempting to become the first South African to play in the big leagues. His dad was a fastpitch softball player and he gravitated to baseball early, catching the eyes of Mariners scout Wayne Norton at an international baseball academy.

Unsworth has worked his way up through the Minor League system and was 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA in nine starts for Double-A Jackson last year before a strained hamstring knocked him out of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and wiped out the second half of his season.

Healthy now, Unsworth has allowed just one hit with two walks and five strikeouts in three innings of Cactus League play, and he will get a "B" game start on Saturday.

Unsworth's eyes sparkle when he talks about hanging out with Felix Hernandez and picking his brain about pitching. Unsworth has spent years in the Minor League camp across the complex, but this is where he wants to wind up and this spring has only further whetted his appetite.

"When I was 10 or 11 and messing around with my brother and parents saying, 'Hey, I want to play professional baseball,' all those dreams I had, I'm living it right now," Unsworth said. "Just speaking about it, I get goosebumps because what you dreamed of when you were a kid and it's happening right now, you wonder, 'Is this real?'

"It is real. I'm learning everything from them and just taking it day by day and not trying to do too much. Being the same guy the way I got here and just moving forward."

Unsworth is part of a growing pool of starting pitching prospects the Mariners have collected and he's ready to show he's knocking on the door.

"Everybody is saying this is my big year," he said. "I'm trying not to think about it or put too much pressure on myself. I'm just being me, being the Dylan Unworth that commands the baseball and is moving up the ladder."

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

Seattle Mariners, Dylan Unsworth