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Woodworth puts big break on pause

Mariners pitching coach preparing for first season on job
@gregjohnsmlb
April 13, 2020

SEATTLE -- This was set to be Pete Woodworth’s first season as a Major League pitching coach, his big break at age 31. But instead of working with the Mariners every day, Woodworth now finds himself at home with his wife and three-month-old son in St. Petersburg, Fla., soaking up

SEATTLE -- This was set to be Pete Woodworth’s first season as a Major League pitching coach, his big break at age 31.

But instead of working with the Mariners every day, Woodworth now finds himself at home with his wife and three-month-old son in St. Petersburg, Fla., soaking up the extra family time while trying to keep tabs on a pitching staff spread across the country during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“It feels sort of like the offseason all over again,” Woodworth said Monday in a conference call with Mariners reporters. “We're all in our separate homes and we're working toward the goal and we're all doing our part and trying to connect in any way we possibly can.”

Woodworth was the pitching coach at Double-A Arkansas last season and has been in the Mariners’ Minor League system the past four years, so he has history with most of the players. He said that everyone on the staff has adequate facilities to throw and keep their arms in shape at their homes. Some have backyard bullpens, others are throwing into nets or playing catch on flat ground.

The biggest concern is just how much to throw and how sharp to stay during a layoff that has no end date yet.

“That's the No. 1 question from a lot of guys,” Woodworth said. “It is different for every individual. They’re all built a different way. How Marco [Gonzales] is going to train is a little different than [Yusei] Kikuchi. How starters are going about their businesses is a little different than relievers. Without a date, it's definitely tough.

“It's just keeping them moving and keeping them treading water so when that that date comes, hopefully we have a couple of weeks to get them ramped up. But they'll have time to get back on building that intensity, building that volume. It is not easy without having that date. It's similar to early December in their offseason program, when they're building arm strength. They haven’t quite jumped up that intensity that they got to in Spring Training.”

Woodworth said all Mariners pitchers are now healthy, including relievers Matt Magill and Erik Swanson, who had been slowed by arm issues early in camp. If anything, the shutdown has allowed pitchers to get an unexpected time to regroup and spend time with family, which certainly is unusual for this time of year.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Woodworth and his staff are continuing to have to check in regularly with Kikuchi, who is renowned for his desire to throw every day, if possible, and needs to be held in check to keep from wearing down.

“I had no doubt that Kikuchi was going to continue throwing,” Woodworth said with a chuckle. “He is still in Scottsdale, [Ariz.,] with his wife and baby, and they have a facility to work out, to throw. They have a mound. His translator Kevin [Ando] is there with him and he throws and catches him as well. So he hasn't skipped a beat.

“He's one that's kind of reaping the benefits of spending some quality time with the family, but at the same time, he has his window that he gets all of his work in that he normally would, every single day, minus a game every fifth day.”

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