PEORIA, Ariz. – The road from San Diego to Seattle is never shorter than in spring training. All reliever Nick Vincent had to do Wednesday was walk across the parking lot at the Peoria Sports Complex.
The Mariners landed the right-handed reliever they have been seeking since an injury sidelined Evan Scribner by acquiring Vincent from the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later.
“It was a short walk,” Vincent said. “So that was nice. It wasn’t like I had to go to Florida or something.”
The move effectively finalizes the Mariners’ seven-man bullpen and means Donn Roach, Mayckol Guaipe and Blake Parker will open the season at Triple-A Tacoma. Guaipe was optioned to the Rainiers before Wednesday’s game.
The Mariners also talked to the Padres about two other right-handed relievers, Kevin Quackenbush and Jon Edwards before the two clubs agreed on Vincent.
“He’s been an excellent performer during the time he’s had in the big leagues,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said, “and very consistently so. He’s neutralized right-handed hitters over 162 outings. There’s no reason to expect that to change.
“He’s very cutter-centric. He’s got a very usable fastball. He’s got some history in the big leagues. I think he gives us a nice upgrade and the additional depth in the bullpen that we were looking for.”
Vincent, 29, compiled a 2.35 ERA last season in 26 big-league games over four separate promotions from Triple-A El Paso. But he is out of options, and the Padres deemed him to be expendable.
“Lot of emotions going on right now,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I’m trying to wrap things up with car shipments, housing and all that. Just go over there and take a deep breath.”
San Diego has a list of players from which to choose the player to be named later.
The Mariners’ bullpen now sets up with right-handers Steve Cishek as the closer and Joaquin Benoit as the primary set-up man.
The rest of the group is right-handers Tony Zych and Joel Peralta and lefties Vidal Nuno and Mike Montgomery.
“I feel we have five solid major-league relievers from the right side,” Dipoto said. “With Nuno and Montgomery, that gives us two lefties, one with power and one with a unique match-up ability against lefties.
“That’s a seven-man bullpen that we’re pretty comfortable with. With the way the other guys in camp have thrown – Donn Roach and Guaipe and Parker – the depth is more comfortable to us today than it was yesterday.”
Scribner is battling a strained latissimus dorsi muscle in his back and not responding as well as hoped. Dipoto said Scribner isn’t expected to return before mid-to-late May.
The Mariners chose not to rush Vincent into action Wednesday against his former teammates. Instead, he is slotted to pitch Thursday in a minor-league game and again Saturday in the spring finale against Colorado at Salt River Fields.
“Right now, I’m in shock still,” Vincent said as he looked at his Mariners’ workout shirt. “So it’s not too strange right now. But I’m sure once I get into that first game in Texas, and look down at a Mariners shirt, it will be a little different.”
Cook, Furbush on disabled list
The trade to acquire Vincent stemmed largely from Scribner’s injury, but the Mariners will also open the season with right-hander Ryan Cook and lefty Charlie Furbush on the disabled list.
Cook is also nursing a strained lat and is already on the 60-day disabled list, which effectively means he can’t return until about June. But he appears to be recovering quicker than Scribner.
“Evan is probably a little further back than Ryan,” Dipoto said, “which is not what we expected. Ryan has done very well in the early stages of his rehab. We don’t anticipate seeing either of them before the middle or end of May.
“Ryan appears to be on target to be in that zone. Scribner is just a little bit of the unknown. It’s tough to pin down. It’s not a common injury for pitchers even though we have two of them in camp.”
Furbush began undergoing a series of blood injections on Wednesday in hopes of accelerating the healing process in his ailing left shoulder.
“It’s a series of injections,” Furbush said, “that will hopefully relieve everything. It’s definitely something that other athletes have tried and seen some good results.”
Dipoto said Furbush will “be down for five days while he goes through the series of injections. We’ll see what happens from there. We anticipate him being out and throwing in three weeks.”
If all goes well, Furbush could be progressing toward game readiness by early May, but Dipoto cautioned: “The way the last 10 months have gone for Charlie, I don’t want to create expectations that are foolish.”
Technology in dugout
The Mariners had been experimenting with new iPad Pro tablets in their dugout for a few days before Wednesday’s announcement of a multiyear agreement Major League Baseball and Apple.
The iPads will provide clubs with next-generation technology to access advance scouting video through a customized app.
“I think it’s great to have the ability to take the technology into the dugout and be able to use it,” manager Scott Servais said. “What we’ll have access to is really not much different than (what is currently available by) having a three-ring binder.’”
‘Chalk talk’ draws out ideas
Part of the Mariners’ new approach is to have their starting pitchers hold a daily “chalk talk” session with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., to exchange ideas in how to approach different hitters in various situations.
While Servais recognizes those sessions can quickly grow old without shaking up the approach, he was surprised to walk by the room recently and find the group sitting quietly in the dark.
“I knocked on the door,” he said, “and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘Scott, don’t worry about it. We’re meditating.’ Felix (Hernandez) said, ‘Yeah, we’re meditating.’ ”
Hernandez characterized the session as “pretty good.” Asked what he got out of it, he replied: “A good rest.”
Servais said: “It’s spring training. It’s (meant) to have fun and do some different things. But they’ve gotten a lot out of it – other than the meditation. I told Mel, ‘As long as they get them out, I don’t care what they do.’ ”
Hernandez ends spring
Another spring in the books for Felix Hernandez. Make what you want of the numbers. The King, for his part, deems them irrelevant.
“Not here in Arizona,” he said. “Just throw the pitches you need to throw and get it done. I’m just looking to be healthy, and I am healthy, and to get ready for April 4. Oh, yeah, I’m ready.”
OK, that’s couple of sound bites pushed together. Still the message is clear.
Hernandez endured a four-run first inning Wednesday in a 7-5 loss to the San Diego Padres at Peoria (Arizona) Stadium. It included some ragged defense, but Hernandez said the fault was his: “Everything was up.”
It only seemed to annoy him. He retired the last two hitters in the first inning on grounders. Pitched around a two-out single in a strong second. Then asked to pitch the third, and he retired three in a row.
Derek Norris’ two-run double highlighted the four-run first before Hernandez closed out his spring with a line showing four runs (three earned) and four hits in three innings. He threw 60 pitches.
For the spring, he allowed eight runs and 18 hits in 15 1/3 innings.
“What do you think?” he asked. “Better than last year, probably.”
A year ago, Hernandez allowed 14 runs in 12 1/3 innings. Then he opened the season by limiting the Angels to one run over seven innings in a 4-1 victory. He is 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA in eight career starts on opening day.
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