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LeBlanc breezes through Padres in spring finale

@gregjohnsmlb
March 26, 2019

SEATTLE -- If Wade LeBlanc seemed in a hurry Tuesday to fast forward through the Mariners’ 1-0 exhibition loss to the Padres, he had good reason. For starters, the Mariners are eager to get back to games that count when they resume regular-season action Thursday with their home opener against

SEATTLE -- If Wade LeBlanc seemed in a hurry Tuesday to fast forward through the Mariners’ 1-0 exhibition loss to the Padres, he had good reason.

For starters, the Mariners are eager to get back to games that count when they resume regular-season action Thursday with their home opener against the Red Sox after a six-day hiatus following their Opening Series in Tokyo.

But LeBlanc was also looking to put a day behind him that started at 5 a.m. as he continued waking up earlier than normal due to the time change from Japan. He then spent an hour and a half in the dentist chair after losing a molar while eating breakfast.

Several hours later, the 34-year-old southpaw took advantage of a free-swinging Padres group to throw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in his final tuneup before his regular-season debut Sunday against Boston.

The Mariners were swept in the two-game exhibition series with the Padres as they got in some work between last week’s Opening Series in Tokyo and the home opener, but that was of little concern to a club that went 2-0 against the A’s in Japan.

“We will look back at these two exhibition games and remember absolutely nothing about that,” manager Scott Servais said. “I’m pretty confident of that. It was about getting the work in for the guys.”

The exhibitions were intended to help players stay sharp in the lull between regular-season games, but LeBlanc needed the outing more than anybody after not pitching in an actual game in 19 days due to poor weather in Arizona and then the trip to Tokyo, where he threw in the bullpen but wasn’t tabbed to start in Seattle’s four games in Japan.

“I felt pretty good,” LeBlanc said. “I threw a couple pretty heavy bullpens in Japan. It wasn’t something where I was just going through the motions. I was pretty aggressive with it. I’m trying to stay sharp because we’ve got Boston coming in.”

LeBlanc threw five innings in a simulated game against Mariners teammates on March 12 in Peoria after his final Cactus League outing was wiped out by rain, but his last time on the mound in an actual game was March 6, when he gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings to the A’s in a spring game.

“Spring was a little funky,” he said. “But it was funky for every pitcher on the staff. Generally, you get around 20 innings and I think I got there after today, so I’ll take that and try to carry it over.”

LeBlanc went to the bullpen afterward to throw 30 extra pitches after needing just 46 against the free-swinging Padres. They were anxious to get done with their own spring before heading home to host the Giants on Thursday’s Opening Day.

“Wade was on top of his game,” Servais said. “He had a really good cutter, good changeup. They were very aggressive, obviously. Typically, it’s that last Spring Training game before everybody wants to get cranked up.”

Bats quiet again

The Mariners managed just four hits and were shut out for the second straight game on Tuesday. They totaled six hits in the two-game set.

Some of that can be attributed to the Padres’ promising young pitching and some to a Mariners club still overcoming the jet lag of the Tokyo trip, but they’ll need to be ready by Thursday when Red Sox ace Chris Sale rolls into town.

Mallex Smith went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and was 0-for-6 in the two games as he continues searching for his timing after missing almost all spring with a strained right elbow, but Servais was encouraged by hard lineouts in Smith’s last two at-bats.

“I thought Mallex swung the bat good his last couple times up and is starting to get some rhythm at the plate, which is good to see,” Servais said.

Most of the Mariners’ regulars were limited to just a couple at-bats in the series, and Seattle’s only threat on Tuesday came in the first when Mitch Haniger singled and Domingo Santana doubled with one out before they were stranded.

Up next

Félix Hernández will throw five innings in a simulated game on Wednesday during the Mariners’ workout at T-Mobile Park in preparation for his first regular-season start Monday against the Angels. Seattle then resumes its regular season on Thursday with the 4:10 p.m. PT home opener against the Red Sox, with Marco Gonzales taking on Sale in the contest televised on ESPN and MLB.TV.

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