Hard-thrower Vieira on steep learning curve

March 11th, 2017

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Baseball isn't an easy game, even when you can throw 100-mph heat. So , a powerfully built Brazilian who opened eyes early in Mariners camp, will not be an overnight sensation.

But the Mariners hope the 23-year-old Vieira continues developing his craft in the Minor Leagues in the coming months and draws from some hard lessons learned this spring, when he's struggled his last two Cactus League outings and was hit hard in Friday's 11-10 win over the Cubs.

Manager Scott Servais acknowledges it's a big learning curve for a youngster who was pitching at Class A Advanced Bakersfield last year.

"I think it's the experience, as much as anything, of being around other Major League pitchers and seeing how they go about their business," Servais said. "Watching games, learning when you're out there, the importance of having a secondary pitch you can get over the plate that looks like your fastball."

Therein lies the biggest challenge for Vieira, who clocked 103 mph on a radar gun in the Arizona Fall League and has consistently been in the upper-90s and occasionally hitting triple digits with his fastball this spring.

Even with that heat, he was hit hard by a Cubs team consisting largely of backups and Minor Leaguers on Friday, giving up four runs on five hits -- including a homer -- while getting just two outs. In his previous outing, against the A's, the youngster walked three and gave up a hit and a run in another shaky frame.

Vieira's challenge of locating his offspeed offerings to counter that blazing fastball looms large at this level.

"He's slowing down [his delivery] a little in his secondary stuff, trying to get it over the plate," Servais said. "And big league hitters pick that up quickly and they don't swing at it."

Vieira wasn't even on the Mariners' radar as much of a prospect until last year, given his command issues had him struggling to throw strikes in rookie ball and low Class A Clinton. But Clinton pitching coach Ethan Katz helped reconstruct his delivery, and the progress has been impressive.

It's just not yet a finished product.

"It's a very violent delivery," Servais said. "There's a lot of moving parts, so it's very hard to be consistent, and he probably needs to tame that down a little bit."

Vieira is the Mariners' No. 12 ranked prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, and he'll certainly get more opportunities to show what he can do.

"He'll take a lot from this camp," Servais said. "I don't think anybody expected him to make our team. He's still a good prospect. He's got a great arm and is a great kid. At some point here, we'll get him over to the [Minor League] side and let him continue to work on things, and hopefully he'll have a big year for us."