Three of the Mariners young pitchers spent the noon hour Friday with members of the Seattle Mariners RBI Club, a group of season ticket holders and boosters. Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge and Carter Capps covered a wide range of topics during the Q&A, everything from their impressions of Felix’s perfect game from their perspective in the bullpen, the best baseball advice they ever got to their plans for the off-season. Here are some highlights from the laugh-filled session.
Stephen Pryor on his Major League debut against the White Sox on June 2, with two on and two out and Paul Konerko, owner of over 400 home runs, at the plate:
“I ended up striking him out on five pitches. Came back to the dugout and I think I held my breath the entire time.”
Carter Capps on pitching at AA Jackson with Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton
“That was one of the most talented starting pitching staffs I’ve ever seen. Taijuan, he’s so young and really skilled and athletic. Danny, obviously he had a great college year and just continued into AA and got moved up. Paxton actually struck out 10 his last AA outing in the playoffs. They’re all amazing pitchers and I’m sure we’ll see them before long.”
Lucas Luetge on meeting his boyhood baseball hero Ken Griffey Jr.
“Growing up I was a Griffey fan. I actually got to meet him this year. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was shaking and nervous and sweating. It was cool, we talked about 20-30 minutes. It was kind of like meeting your idol. It was pretty awesome.”
Pryor on the best advice he ever got, which was from his AA Jackson pitching coach Lance Painter.
“Don’t get complacent. Never be satisfied. Always want more. And that’s something that’s really stuck in my head and it’s been something that I feel has taken me to the next level with the mental part of the game.”
When someone from the audience referenced all three as “hard throwers,” Luetge shook his head “no.” And when asked about the pitch he’d like to add to his repertoire, his answer was:
“I’m still waiting on that day where I wake up and there’s 97 (mph) in the arm.”
On their view from the bullpen of Felix’s perfect game:
Pryor: “In the 6th or 7th inning, when he struck out the side again for the second time, I got a feeling ‘He’s going to do this.’ Everybody in the bullpen, their hands were shaking and jittery, we were standing up, sitting down, we couldn’t get comfortable.”
Luetge: “Once it gets to the 6th or 7th, there’s a kind of realization that this could happen. We were in there clapping at every strike like Little Leaguers. And we had to tell this one (motioning to Capps) to be quiet because he was trying to jinx it. He kept saying ‘Wow, Felix is pitching really good on day games.’ We had to keep him quiet the last 2-3 innings.”
Capps: “I was thinking Felix should throw all the day games, he likes them so much. Obviously, he was just cruising for the longest time. It was unbelievable. In perfect games in the past there’s always a few plays that are borderline or someone makes a diving outstanding catch. But he was just overpowering guys and it was pretty special to watch.”
Offseason plans for Pryor include spending time with his wife and two daughters. Capps plans to do some hunting and fishing. And Luetge, he’s got big plans:
“The first week when we get back is the county fair. Jaso’s going to stop by, so I’m going to take him and show him around.”
The Mariners have called up hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Stephen Pryor from Triple-A Tacoma. He joined the team in Chicago, and will be in uniform (#46) for tonight’s series opener vs. the White Sox.
Pryor, 22, is 0-0 with 9 saves and a 0.64 ERA (2 ER, 28.0 IP) in 21 relief appearances combined between AAA Tacoma (0 ER, 12.0 IP) and AA Jackson (2 ER, 16.0 IP) in 2012. He has limited opponents to a .121 (12×99) average, while walking 12 and striking out 39.
The 6-4, 245-pound right-hander currently leads all Mariners farmhands with 9 saves. After allowing 2 earned runs in his first appearance this season with Jackson on April 5 vs. Birmingham, he has not allowed an earned run in his last 27.0 innings (1 R), including 12.0 scoreless innings since his promotion to Tacoma on May 8. Since joining the Rainiers, opponents are 0-for-16 with runners on base, including 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Pryor was the Mariners 5th round selection in the 2010 June draft out of Cleveland State Community College (TN). He is 4-3 with 24 saves and a 2.87 ERA (36 ER, 113.0 IP) in 82 career minor league relief appearances.
To make room on the active 25-man roster, RHP Steve Delabar was optioned to AAA Tacoma post-game Wednesday. To create a spot on the 40-man roster, LHP George Sherrill was transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. Sherrill underwent ulnar collateral ligament (“Tommy John”) surgery on May 4, and recovery and rehabilitation from the surgery will prevent Sherrill from pitching again this season.
Day 5 / Thursday, February 16, 2012 / 40 Days ‘til Opening Night in Tokyo / 56 Days ‘til Opening Night in Seattle
Weather: Not a cloud in the sky during workouts as the temperatures hovered in the lower to mid-60’s.
Quote of the Day: “Heads Up!” – Players and coaches yelled to General Manager Jack Zduriencik warning him after infielder Vinnie Catricala hit a scorching line drive that nearly hit the golf cart Jack was riding in. This following a shot down the line that almost took out a group of photographers.
The Day: Day 5 was very similar to day 4, with pitchers taking PFP (Pitcher’s Fielding Practice), while half the pitchers had a throwing session in the bullpen. Starters Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and Blake Beavan threw their third bullpen session, while a crowd of coaches and media stayed and watched pitchers Stephen Pryor, Erasmo Ramirez, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton throw in the bullpen as well.
So far 60 of the 66 players invited to Major League camp have been spotted around the complex. The position players will officially report tomorrow for physicals, while the first full squad workout is on Saturday.
Infielder Vinnie Catricala impressed many of the coaches during his BP session this afternoon. Besides nearly taking of the GM and half the photographers watching, he was hitting the ball all over field. Looks like he is picking up exactly where he left off at the end of last year. Catricala was named the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, after hitting .349 (182×521) with 101 runs scored, 77 extra-base (2B – 48, 3B – 4, HR – 25) and 106 RBI in 133 games combined between A High Desert and AA Jackson. Among full season minor leaguers he ranked 2nd in extra-base hits, 3rd in hits, T3rd in doubles, T4th in batting average and T9th in RBI.
Tweet of the Day:
— Vinnie Catricala (@VinnieCatricala) February 15, 2012
Carlos Peguero wins the award for longest drive of the day. He launched a mammoth shot that hit the 32-foot-high batter’s eye in center field 410-feet away to highlight BP. Not sure if the ball bounced back to the field or got stuck in the chain-link fence.
A group of 35 of the Mariners top Minor League players are in camp today for physicals to take part in the team’s annual mini camp for many of top lower-level prospects. The first workout for mini-camp players is tomorrow and workouts will run through March 1. Mini-camp is an opportunity for players to receive one-on-one instruction from the coaching staff and work on improvement plans for Spring Training and the rest of the 2012 season. Among players taking part in the mini camp are highly regarded prospects right-handed pitchers Victor Sanchez and Carter Capps, catcher Marcus Littlewood, infielders Brad Miller and Cavan Cohoes and outfielders Guillermo Pimentel, Phillips Castillo and Jabari Blash.
Several Mariners players have already arrived in Peoria in preparation for the first Pitchers and Catchers workout on Sunday. Several players will arrive in Arizona on flights, and either rent cars for the spring, or have their cars shipped from their home. There are even a few Mariners that call Arizona home during the off-season. And then there are a few road warriors, who will hit America’s highways and make the journey the old-fashioned way. Relief pitchers Shawn Kelley and Stephen Pryor started their journey from Chattanooga, TN yesterday morning at 8am, along with Shawn’s puggles, Miller & Izzie. They hope to finish the 1,800-mile trek Friday afternoon when they pull into the Mariners Spring Training Complex in Peoria.
We caught up with Shawn as he started his journey and asked him a few questions about the drive, what music they have been listening to, how many stops they have made, and how he ended up with Stephen in his passenger seat…
When and where did you start the journey?
We started driving from Chattanooga on Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. I am driving my Tahoe, and pulling my jeep. Both cars are filled with all of our family stuff for the upcoming season.
How did it come about for you to drive with Stephen to Arizona?
My wife (Kelsey) ran into him at the Chattanooga mall kids play area and set it up! She doesn’t like me driving by myself across country, so this was perfect. Stephen and I are both from Tennessee (Stephen is from the small town of Ooltewah, TN, 20 miles outside of Chattanooga) and we have very similar baseball backgrounds. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit with our families, and we have a lot in common.
Have you always driven to spring training rather than fly?
I have serious flight anxiety and love to be in control!! It’s more Tennessean of me to drive!
It is just you and a fellow pitcher, what’s most of the conversation about?
Sesame street and Mickey mouse! Occasionally we talk baseball and politics! Steven always falls asleep on me though ( I guess I’m boring)
When will Kelsey and Parker join you in Arizona?
They fly out on valentines day!
You are driving your Tahoe it looks like…is that also your jeep?
Yep! The Tahoe is pulling the jeep! I’ll be top down all spring training while blowing my train horn that I had installed! Cover your ears when you see me.
What have your stops been on the trip?
Lots of stops because my two small dogs need to go to the bathroom a lot. So far we’ve stopped in Memphis, Little Rock and stayed last night in Fort Smith, Arkansas near the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. We are driving right now (as of 11 a.m. Thursday PT) and getting close to Elk City, Oklahoma. We drove about 11 hours yesterday, hope to get to Albuquerque, New Mexico tonight, and then a short 7-hour drive to Peoria Friday.
Have you done anything on the trip that people would shake their head at?
We played long-toss in the parking lot of a Chili’s this morning. You have to get your throwing in!
Best roadside attraction you’ve seen so far?
We saw 6 deer grazing by a undercover police car.
Most interesting car or license plate you’ve seen on the road so far?
Mine! My Tahoe with a Tennessee plate pulling a red-neck jeep with Washington plates. Seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it!
What playlist did you go with for the journey?
Anything country or 80’s!! No Madonna after the Super Bowl show, unless its Like a Prayer.
What has been the best meal so far on the trip? Or worst for that matter?
Subway’s $5 foot-long has been the best, and we’ve gone more than once! The donuts we picked up at a Shell Station were not a good idea. I hope our nutritionist is not reading this.
What will be your first stop in AZ?
Panda Express, and again, I hope our nutritionist is not reading this.
And now some baseball questions…
You had quite a ride last season, coming back from a second Tommy John surgery (partial) and ended the season without giving up a run in 10 appearances with the Mariners (12.2 innings). Was that motivation heading into the off-season?
Yeah for sure! I want to keep that mentality coming into 2012 and build off that momentum heading into spring.
What have you been doing in recent weeks to ramp up to the start of spring training?
Watching movies with my son, working on his football catching, and I’ve started throwing bullpens.
What are some of your goals heading into spring camp?
To be at my best and help some of our younger new pitchers develop.
Have you given any pitching advice to Stephen along the way. Seems like you guys have similar baseball backgrounds and moving up the Mariners system fast.
Yeah, we have scarily similar backgrounds both coming from small schools in Tennessee (Shawn from Austin Peay University, Stephen from Tennessee Tech). I’ve told him to just be himself, have fun and don’t put to much pressure on himself! Worry about what he can control and the rest will fall I to place. I think Mariners fans are going to enjoy seeing Stephen pitch and getting to know his name. [blog note about Stephen: He is rated as the Mariners No. 15 prospect by Baseball America. He is 3-3 with 15 saves and a 3.60 ERA in 62 relief appearances during his minor league career. The Mariners selected him in the 5th round of the 2010 draft out of Tennessee Tech University.]
You can follow Shawn and his journey to Peoria on Twitter at @shawnkelley23.
Today, we announced that 9 organizational players have been invited to Major League Spring Training. These players are in addition to the 16 players the Mariners have signed as minor league free agents. So, as of right now, the spring training roster consists of 65 players. Here is the Mariners current 40-Man Roster with spring training invites.
Here are the 9 Mariners minor league players that will participate in Major League Spring Training:
- RHP Taijuan Walker
- LHP James Paxton
- INF Nick Franklin
- OF Vinnie Catricala
- RHP Erasmo Ramirez
- RHP Stephen Pryor
- RHP Forrest Snow
- C Jesus Sucre
- C Ralph Henriquez
There are a few names on here that fans will be very excited to see roaming the upper fields in Peoria.
The list includes seven of the Mariners top 20 prospects for the 2012 season as listed by Baseball America, including Taijuan Walker (#2), James Paxton (#4), Nick Franklin (#5), Vinnie Catricala (#9), Erasmo Ramirez (#13), Stephen Pryor (#15) and Forrest Snow (#19). Additional top 30 prospects C Jesus Montero (#1), LHP Danny Hultzen (#3), RHP Chance Ruffin (#7), RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (#8), INF Alex Liddi (#14), OF Chih-Hsien Chiang (#24), INF Carlos Triunfel (#25), LHP Mauricio Robles (#26) and OF Johermyn Chavez (#28) are on the 40-man roster.
Additionally, the Mariners had five players named among MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects:
- C Jesus Montero (#12)
- LHP Danny Hultzen (#16)
- RHP Taijuan Walker (#18)
- INF Nick Franklin (#52)
- LHP James Paxton (#77)
The Mariners were one of five organizations to place at least 5 prospects on this year’s Top 100 list, and ranked highest with 329 Prospect Points (100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and on down).
Walker, 19, was named the Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011 going 6-5 with a 2.89 ERA (31 ER, 96.2 IP) with A Clinton. He was recently named the No. 8 right-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com. Walker was originally selected by Seattle in the supplemental first round (43rd overall) in the 2010 June Draft.
Paxton, 23, was recently named the No. 8 left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com (Hultzen was No. 3). He made his debut in 2011 combining to go 6-3 with a 2.37 ERA (25 ER, 95.0 IP) in 17 starts with A Clinton and AA Jackson. Overall, he ranked 2nd in the minors with 12.41 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (131 SO). Paxton signed with the Mariners last March after being selected in the 4th round of the 2010 June Draft.
Franklin, 20, also garnered attention from MLB.com as the No. 6 shortstop prospect. Despite missing an extended period of time in 2011 with a concussion, Franklin still hit .281 (99×352) with 64 runs scored, 13 doubles, 7 triples, 7 home runs and 26 RBI with the AZL Mariners, High Desert and Jackson. He capped his 2011 season being named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. In 2010 he was one of only three minor leaguers to turn in a 20 HR-20 SB season (23 HR, 25 SB). Franklin was selected by Seattle in the first round (27th overall) in the 2009 June Draft.
Catricala, 23, was named the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year in 2011 combining to bat .349 (182×521) with 101 runs, 48 doubles, 4 triples, 25 home runs and 106 RBI in 133 games with A High Desert and AA Jackson. Among full season minor leaguers he ranked 2nd in extra base hits (77), 3rd in hits, T3rd in doubles, T4th in batting average and T9th in RBI. Catricala was selected by the Mariners in the 10th round of the 2009 June Draft out of the University of Hawai’i.
Ramirez, 21, combined to go 10-8 with a 4.83 ERA (82 ER, 152.2 IP) in 26 starts with Jackson and Tacoma. Ramirez is 35-14, 3.10 in his minor league career (79 G/73 GS), including being named the 2009 Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 11-1, 0.51 as a 19-year-old with the Venezuelan Summer League Mariners.
Pryor, 22, combined for 10 saves with High Desert and Jackson last season. The hard-throwing right-hander averaged 11.05 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in 39 relief appearances. He was originally selected by Seattle in the 5th round of the 2010 June Draft out of Tennessee Tech University.
Snow, 23, went 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA (81 ER, 143.1 IP) in 28 appearances (21 GS) split between Clinton, High Desert and Tacoma. The University of Washington product led the Arizona Fall League with a 1.10 ERA (2 ER, 16.1 IP). Snow was originally selected in the 36th round of the 2010 June Draft.
Sucre, 23, split time between AA affiliates with Atlanta (Mississippi) and Seattle (Jackson) organizations last season. He combined to throw out 31 of 60 attempted base stealers (51.7%).
Henriquez, 24, saw action in 80 games last season with High Desert, Jackson and Tacoma. He was originally selected by Houston in the 2nd round of the 2005 June Draft and signed with Seattle as a minor league free agent on Dec. 11, 2009.