The resilience needed to fight and remain a soldier is hard to come by. I finished this summary, kind of hated the beginning, and had to go back and rewrite it. I still don’t love it, but I feel like if I keep writing summaries, it will get easier, I’ll get better, and I might even write something great. Why do I feel this way? Because I have a new example that it is possible.
I don’t know if Jake Scheiner feels like he belongs or not as he hangs around big league camp. On the one hand, professional athletes are known for their confidence; certainly in baseball, you have to believe in yourself to justify the grind of the minor league lifestyle. But on the other hand, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high achievers. She would certainly understand if he felt a little out of place at a major league spring training game.
After all, Scheiner came to the Mariners as the Phillies’ late comeback for Jay Bruce in 2019, and you probably haven’t heard much about him since. He is 26 years old and has not played above AA. He was not selected for the 2020 60-man pool. He was eligible for Rule 5 this year, but was not protected. His Fangraphs page doesn’t even have a future prospect value chart.
But he has kept pushing himself, chasing his craft, trying to get better.
And tonight, he was called up in a major league game (spring training) in a high-leverage situation. For one glorious moment, the luminosity of it came to shine.
Touch them all, Jake. You may never hit a bigger home run in your life. Tonight, Jake Scheiner showed us that no matter how unlikely your presence is, if you push yourself and dig deep to overcome your doubts, you can prove that you belong.
Even before this point, it was clear that this game was about trying to fit in, although the story was more about established guys trying to fit in with a new group. Starting a new job is quite difficult under any circumstances. But the new Mariners have to try to carve out a place for themselves within a group so cohesive that they lived by the “fun differential.” Its main prospect is to present one of the best shows in baseball every night. They packed their stadium for a non-special event for the first time in a while, and they start the year with legitimate playoff aspirations after years of stagnation. Sure, it would be exciting, but it would also be stressful. Four of these new guys demanded your attention tonight, but only three of them will walk away feeling like they’ve done more to secure their status in the group.
Jesse Winker, formerly Red, started the game by dropping a ball that you have to imagine any decent left fielder could have reached in a bit of a hurry:
Perhaps this wouldn’t have stood out except that it was compounded by missing a routine fly ball at lights in the next inning, for what seems like the umpteenth time already:
In the scheme of trying to make a good first impression, that play ranks right up there with farting in the break room. Worse still, both plays would cost runs, the first an RBI single and the second a “double” that would come to score. Later, Winker had a poor throw to second base that could have caught Carlos Rodriguez swinging a single, but he didn’t. With just one hit this spring, Winker has a lot of work to do to establish himself as an essential part of this team. You can’t live on your past reputation alone.
The good news for Winker is that he came with a friend. Eugenio Suarez has his back, and in the fourth, he was determined to prevent another ball from reaching left field.
Later, Suarez made a touch with his bare hands in a manner that recalled none other than Kyle Seager. As Kate alluded to in the tweet, it sounds like Suarez has been soaking up as much of Perry Hill’s wisdom as possible. Listen to a highly respected boss? It’s always a good way to endear yourself to his co-workers.
For his part, Robbie Ray made himself appreciated with brute force, taking on most of a collective project without complaint. He struck out six batters in five and a third with just one walk:
If you could look away from Willy Adames nearly falling over in that video, you might have noticed Sergio Romo. Watching the game, I assure you that he was the other way around. Sergio Romo offered the most charismatic interview in the game so far this spring. He exudes self-confidence and spoke convincingly about how important it is to know yourself in order to be successful. His locker is apparently between George Kirby and recently announced fifth starter Matt Brash, and Romo seems to love giving the gift of his wisdom to young pitchers. I’m jealous because I want Sergio Romo to be my mentor.
Later in the game, Romo made his Mariners debut going 1-2-3 in the seventh inning, striking out Keston Huira with a nasty slider that’s somehow hard to pick up even when you’re just guarding against a fastball from 85mph He is talking and walking, and nothing will get you into the inner circle faster than that. A full day for Romo, who also posted his 40th in 25 today, earns him tonight’s Sun Hat for making a major contribution to the game. He also did this:
Elsewhere in the game, Luis Curvello walked twice but allowed neither to score, Sewald struck out to the side and Steckenrider pitched a clean inning. To be sure, tonight’s lineup was more Milwaukee Brewers Total Landscaping than the defending NL Central champions, but the pitching staff did their job tonight.
On the other side of the ball, it looked like the Mariners were going to keep the 2021 NL Cy Young winner in check when Corbin Burnes had only struck out one in the first three innings. But he would go on to strike out five of six at a time and leave the game with six strikeouts, no walks and only two hits. However, one of them came off the bat of a finally awake Tom Murphy at 105 mph. Behold: Corbin, burned:
A well-timed quick throw down the left-field line from Souza would set up two more in the eighth to tie things up for Scheiner’s big moment. He may not be on the 40-man list, but tonight he broke through and it looked like he belonged. He is an example for all of us.