Alumni Newsletter

All from Seattle and Not just Timber Rattlers…There is a Brewers Alumni you may recognize in there:

Michael Pineda continues his bid to make the Mariners’ starting rotation

One day after his worst statistical outing of the spring, Michael Pineda saw his path to the big leagues grow a little more clear.

The Mariners on Thursday officially eliminated another would-be Pineda competitor from contention for the final rotation spot by reassigning knuckleballer Charlie Haeger to minor-league camp. Unofficially, Haeger was eliminated a while ago because injuries have limited his innings this spring, but still, the number of actual bodies standing between Pineda and his big-league dream is dwindling rapidly.

Mariners officials have privately suggested the job is Pineda’s to lose and that left-hander Luke French is the only pitcher with a shot at taking it away from him. The one way Pineda can blow this thing is by failing to establish secondary pitches beyond his fastball, something his manager insists the pitcher did even in taking somewhat of a pounding the other night.
Michael Saunders looked up at the approaching media, and smiled.
“I knew you guys would be coming,” he said sitting in front of his locker before a recent workout. “I knew it.”

It’s not every day during spring training that a player fighting to make the 25-man roster walks into a game and uses a different batting stance.

Over the weekend, that’s just what Saunders did. And it wasn’t a one-time thing. The Seattle Mariners outfielder and Victoria native used the modified stance in all three trips to the plate during a game against the Cleveland Indians, going 1-for-3 with a single. He followed that up with a 2-for-2 performance on Sunday.

But what brought about such a change? What is it supposed to remedy? And why do it halfway into spring training?

The first hints of Saunders, a graduate of the Vic-toria Mariners of the B.C. Premier League, doing something different at the plate came before he took batting practice Friday.

He stepped into the area where pitchers throw bullpen sessions and stood in the batter’s box timing pitches. Instead of his customary stance with his hands high, circling the bat before the pitch, Saunders stood in a wide stance, bat on his shoulder, completely still. As the pitcher delivered, he raised his hands and bat up slightly -cocking them.

With several members of the media standing around to watch pitcher James Paxton, what Saunders was doing piqued curiosity.
On June 8, 1993, while working in his office at Three Rivers Stadium, Ted Simmons suffered a heart attack. He would tell reporters he thought he was going to die.

Less than three weeks later, Simmons resigned his pressure-packed job as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and reassessed his life. Simmons was 43 years old, barely five seasons removed from a 21-year playing career many still believe should land him in the Hall of Fame.

For starters, he quit his 2 ˝-pack-a-day (“three or 3 ˝ packs on a bad day,” he admitted) cigarette habit.

“All the vices a person could have at age 40, still perceiving themselves as bulletproof, I had,” Simmons says now. “And I realized if I wanted to be around for grandchildren and that sort of stuff, I had to change my life, and I did. At my pace back then, with my lifestyle, I wouldn’t have made it.”

That abrupt lifestyle change propelled Simmons to a multifaceted career in the front office and dugout that will make him an invaluable counselor to Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik … the same Jack Zduriencik who was Simmons’ scouting director with the Pirates.

Simmons, hired in November as a senior adviser to Zduriencik, has done it all. As a player, he was in eight All-Star Games and played in Game 7 of a World Series. As GM, he had the Pirates within one inning of a World Series berth before the Braves rallied in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

Following his resignation as GM, Simmons had a stint as an adviser to Cleveland GM John Hart (and watched the Indians make it to — and lose — two World Series during his tenure). He was director of player development for the Cardinals, ran the minor leagues for the Padres as well as taking a turn advising San Diego GM Kevin Towers. And for the past three seasons, he put the uniform back on and was bench coach for the Brewers and Padres.

I used to think it was funny when the NBC cameras cut away from Simba dragging on a cigarette in the dugout during the World Series in 1982…But…DUDE 3-1/2 packs?

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