Hector Noesi makes his pitch for Mariners' rotation
Right-hander Hector Noesi, the "other" guy in the Michael Pineda trade, has pitched well in his bid to make the Mariners' starting rotation.
Seattle Times staff reporter
MARYVALE, Ariz. — Hector Noesi isn't yet sure if he'll be in Seattle for opening day, though he took another step in that direction with a solid three-inning outing Tuesday as the Mariners beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4.
All Noesi cares about, he says, is that he'll be in Seattle eventually.
The 25-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic was the other player acquired by the Mariners, along with catcher Jesus Montero, in the trade with the Yankees in which Seattle sent pitcher Michael Pineda to New York.
Going from the team with the richest tradition in the sport to one still looking for its first World Series might seem something of a comedown, but Noesi said he welcomed the move. And not just because of the obvious opportunity it presented to jump immediately into the rotation — the Yankees had been using him primarily as a reliever.
"I was back in the Dominican and they called me and told me they traded me to Seattle," he recalled. "Before that, my best friend asked me if I want to play for another team besides the Yankees and I say, 'Yes, I want to go to Seattle, I love the city.' And (then) they traded me to Seattle."
Those trips came in May and September during two of his four stints with the Yankees last season when he was 2-2 in 30 games, all but two in relief.
With the Mariners, though, he's competing for a spot in the rotation, one of four pitchers vying for the three spots after Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. The others are veteran nonroster free agent Kevin Millwood, Blake Beavan and another newly signed free agent, Hisashi Iwakuma of Japan.
Noesi has done nothing to show he doesn't deserve one of those spots. Tuesday, he gave up a solo home run on a full-count changeup to Milwaukee's Travis Ishikawa, a graduate of Federal Way High. He allowed two singles later in the second inning before he got out of it by retiring Brewers pitcher Zach Grienke on a fly out.
His other two innings were more impressive. He retired the Brewers 1-2-3 in the first (including inducing a soft pop-up from reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun, who went 0-2 against Noesi). And he faced just three batters in the third, executing a perfect pickoff move to erase the one runner (Norichika Aoki) who was on base due to a walk.
Noesi joked later that might have been the first time he's ever picked off a runner. And when asked who was more surprised it worked, Noesi or Aoki, he said "me," adding, "but I've been working on my quick step back in the Dominican. It's getting better."
Said manager Eric Wedge: "He was good again. He's moving his fastball around, using all of his pitches. He's really composed out there. He keeps the ball down for the most part. He's still learning, but you have to like the way he's pitching and the way he carries himself."
And first impressions might be more important this spring than ever with the Mariners having a shortened spring due to the trip to Japan for season-opening games against Oakland on March 28-29. In particular, Millwood can opt out of his contract if he's not on the 40-man major-league roster on March 22, when the team flies to Japan (though it's worth noting that the team wouldn't need to use the 3-4-5 pitching spots until the second week of April.)
"This is a big week for a lot of guys as we start to get closer to getting ready to go to Japan and having to make some roster decisions," Wedge said.
Noesi, who earned a reputation for control in the minors, had hoped to go four innings but reached his pitch count (he threw 57) before he could get there.
Just don't call his latest outing part of a spring competition. Noesi said that's not how he views it.
"I don't think about that," he said. "I don't compete with nobody. I just do what I love, you know? Play baseball. Here, wherever."
• The Mariners blew Tuesday's game open with five runs in the ninth. The key hits were a bases-loaded single by Alex Liddi to start the scoring, followed by a double by Michael Saunders to bring in two more.
Dustin Ackley added a double to bring in another run. Saunders was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and two driven in, continuing a solid spring in which he is hitting .409.
• Vargas will start Wednesday in a minor-league game to keep him on his regular rotation. Millwood will start the regular game against the Royals in Peoria at 7:05 p.m.
• The Mariners have added a split-squad game Friday in Tucson against the Brewers at 1:05 p.m. Felix Hernandez will start.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta
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