PEORIA, Ariz. – Sean White quietly is becoming one of the feel-good stories of spring training for the Seattle Mariners because, well, he feels good.
The sore right shoulder that plagued him during the second half of last season feels strong after an offseason regimen to build it back up, and he’s throwing the baseball now like he did before.
“He has been outstanding,” manager Don Wakamatsu said Saturday after White pitched a perfect inning in the Mariners’ 8-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. “To me, he was probably as valuable as anybody in our bullpen last year and I see the same thing right now. He feels good and that’s good enough for me.”
Nobody could say that about White in the second half of last season, when a heavy first-half workload and tendinitis in the shoulder limited his effectiveness in the Mariners’ bullpen.
White, a sinker specialist, became the Mariners’ go-to reliever last year when they needed a ground ball in a dicey situation. When the shoulder started barking, however, they couldn’t use him. White pitched in 34 games in the first half of the season but only 18 in the second half, when he finally was shut down over the final five weeks.
“I spent a lot of time in the offseason strengthening my shoulder and getting it strong,” White said. “Right now, I’m taking it day-to-day and I’m feeling really good. I feel like where I left off.”
The Mariners would love to have the same Sean White in 2010 as they did in the first half of 2009, when he held opposing hitters to a .208 average.
He held left-handers to a .191 average, important on a team that went through last season without a left-handed specialist and appears to be headed into this season the same way.
What the Mariners must be careful with is his workload.
Including spring training last year, White pitched 77 innings (641/3 in the regular season).
“I’ll be real happy if we can get 60 out of him,” Wakamatsu said. “I think we’ll go in and try to stay away from too many back-to-back days, that type of thing. But not so much that he limits us. Obviously, you look at where you’re at in the standings and what’s going on there because you can’t save guys.
“But I really like how far he’s come since last year because of the injury.”
White said nobody has talked with him about lessening the workload, and it doesn’t concern him.
“I want the ball when the opportunity is there,” he said.
So far this month, White has retired six of the seven hitters he has faced (he hit one) and most important his shoulder feels strong.
“I guess the caveat is making sure we control his innings a little more because of the history,” Wakamatsu said. “But right now his ball is moving, especially out here. To see it move the way it’s moving, he’s throwing grenades up there. I like what I see. He says he feels good and he looks great.”