Mariners catcher Adam Moore impressive in spring training
Rob Johnson is seemingly entrenched as the Mariners' starting catcher, but is recovering from offseason hip surgery and has yet to play this spring, while Adam Moore is hitting .571.
Seattle Times staff reporter
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Mariners catcher Adam Moore grew up right in the shadows of Friday Night Lights in Mineola, Texas, a town of 5,000 or so about a 90-minute drive from Dallas.
"The expectations for a high-school player in football there were very high," he says.
Baseball? Not so much.
But though he emerged as the quarterback of the high-school team in a football-crazy area, his heart was always on the diamond.
"I just knew baseball was where it was at for me," he said.
That belief was validated as Moore swiftly rose through the Mariners' farm system. Moore could finally reach the top rung in a few weeks by making the opening-day roster.
After a 6-2 spring-training win over the Giants here Thursday, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu pointed to Moore as the player of the day. In his fifth game of the spring, Moore again showed patience at the plate and an improved presence behind it. He seems to be far more mature than the six games of major-league experience he received last September.
"I really like what's going on behind the plate," Wakamatsu said after Moore went 1 for 2 with two walks to improve his spring average to .571, while also making two nice plays on bunts. "I'm really impressed with the way he is moving, but more important, some of the situational stuff he is on top of."
Moore, 25, was the Mariners' sixth-round pick in 2006 and was recently rated the No. 3 prospect in the organization by Baseball America.
Nobody doubts the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has a major-league future, the only question has been when.
Rob Johnson seems entrenched as the starter but is recovering from offseason hip surgery and has yet to play this spring. As insurance, the Mariners signed veteran Josh Bard, who turns 32 at the end of the month. The catcher's job has generally been described as a three-man race this spring.
"It is wide open," said Moore. "And we are all three working to start. It's going to be a lot of fun, good competition, and we'll just see where it takes us."
Moore, though, is making a healthy claim for a job. He has hit .301 in four minor-league seasons, and hit his first major-league homer last September. He also has unquestioned arm strength.
But he needed to show improvement this spring in some subtle areas behind the plate, such as improving ability to catch and knock down tough pitches.
"It's just getting in a good spot behind the plate as far as getting my balance underneath me and kind of swaying to get pitches instead of reaching out across my body," he said. "It's coming along really well right now."
That improvement showed when he popped out to make a nice play on a bunt by Andre Torres in the third inning, uncorking a throw that first baseman Casey Kotchman told Wakamatsu "was as hard as he has received a ball down the first-base line."
Moore became the first Mariners catcher to make two straight starts.
Johnson appears on track to recover in time for the opening of the season. But the team's Web site reported Thursday that his spring debut has been moved back to Monday and that Moore will catch Felix Hernandez in a game Sunday in Tucson.
"I've got to prove myself, there's no doubt about it," Moore said. "And that's what this competition is going to be like for the remainder of the spring, going out and showing these guys that I can play at this level and can gain the trust of the pitchers and still swing the bat."
• For the second time this spring, the Mariners knocked around reigning two-time National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, a one-time Husky. The Mariners scored four runs (though just two earned) in 2-2/3 innings, on six hits and two walks. Lincecum has a 9.82 earned-run average, though he shrugged it off later. "Stuff-wise, I felt like everything was good," Lincecum said. "I think right now everything is just location. I just try to take something positive from each outing. This is spring training, not the season."
• Ian Snell, likely to be the No. 3 or 4 starter, had another solid outing, allowing one hit and no runs in three innings, and has a 1.80 ERA.
• Chone Figgins walked three times, scored twice and has a .438 on-base percentage though he has yet to get his first hit. He's 0 for 9 and has scored twice.
• ESPN 710 KIRO has added a game March 22 to its broadcast schedule to make up for a rainout Saturday. It will broadcast 22 of Seattle's 33 games this spring, and all but three the rest of the way. One that won't be broadcast is Friday's game against the Royals.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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