02/18/10 5:16 PM EST
Mariners focused on first day of workouts
Players comfortable with second-year skipper Wakamatsu
By Jim Street / MLB.com
On a day that started with a welcome-back speech from manager Don Wakamatsu and ended with a "300-yard shuttle," the Mariners sent 29 pitchers and seven catchers through workouts on three of the six practice fields.
Right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Jesus Colome were absent. Colome, who signed a Minor League contract last Friday, is finalizing his work visa in the Dominican Republic and is expected to be in camp on Friday, and Petit, a waiver claim from the D-backs, was given a couple of extra days to take care of personal matters in Venezuela. He is expected to join the workouts on Friday or Saturday.
"I think the first day was more exciting this year because of the relationships we developed last year," reliever Mark Lowe said. "It was good to see everybody and get back on the field."
It marked the first time in three seasons that the Mariners started a Spring Training with the same manager that was the skipper the previous season.
"Things are a lot more comfortable knowing what kind of personality your manager has," Lowe added. "With Wak, last year was a learning experience during Spring Training."
The post-practice one-on-one sessions between Wakamatsu, coaches and players resumed and will continue through the early stages of camp.
"I am probably looking forward to the meetings in the afternoon more than anything," Wakamatsu said before the workout. "Some of these guys obviously are returning, but there are some new guys that we have to get a handle on. It's important to get them to trust us."
Twelve of the pitchers that worked out on Thursday made at least one appearance with the Mariners last season, including ace right-hander Felix Hernandez, who looks to be in even better shape this year than a year ago.
One of the things the pre-camp physical discloses is the amount of body fat for each player. Former Seattle pitcher Jamie Moyer almost always had the least amount of body fat.
"Felix said he won it," Wakamatsu said, smiling. "He had his all-time low and I told him it was maturity. As you get older, the baby fat goes away."
Wakamatsu said the first day went well.
"Everything ran smooth," he said. "I thought it went great."
Just what does a manager look for on the first day of workouts?
"In all honesty, I look for focus," Wakamatsu said. "I thought we were quiet out there today and that will loosen up, but that's a sign right away that guys are focused. Our message is 'detail in the drills' and that's what impressed me.
"With very few exceptions, they went through the drills exactly the way we wanted them to."
Pitchers were divided into two groups and 15 hurlers in Group One -- including Hernandez and closer David Aardsma -- threw bullpen sessions on Thursday.
"It was good to see guys throwing," Wakamatsu said. "There are a lot of big strong bodies, good arms. It's too early to say anybody stood out. Everybody looked good."
The practice-ending "shuttle" left some players gasping for air.
Each player must run a series of three 100-yard sprints, 50 yards at a time, and cover the distance in less than 60 seconds at least twice.
"One catcher was at 59.999," Wakamatsu said.
"It wasn't pretty, but I made it [sub-60 seconds] every time," catcher Adam Moore said.
When a player comes far short of the 60-second mark more than once, he must run the 300-yard shuttle again the following day.
Former Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien needed three attempts to conquer the shuttle last spring.
"The biggest thing for me in the first day is how much farther along we feel this year in continuity compared to last year," Wakamatsu said. "You watch the guys who have been through the program and validated some of the things we did last year help the new guys. That's probably the biggest thing."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.