GOODYEAR, Ariz. – By day, Michael Pineda works to become a pitcher worthy of the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation.
At night, the 22-year-old goes to his apartment and pours himself into something else he considers vital in his development: the English language.
The Mariners’ top pitching prospect labored somewhat in his third spring training outing Friday, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk in three innings. Afterward, as he tried to describe his outing to a half-dozen reporters, Pineda apologized.
“I’m sorry about my English. I want to try,” he said. “I’m working every day on my English.”
The Mariners put all their non-English-speaking minor leaguers through the Rosetta Stone language program. That’s how Pineda, from the Dominican Republic, spends his evenings.
“He wants to be great. He knows that little things matter,” said Pedro Grifol, the Mariners’ minor league director. “He knows that if he does the little things, then big things can happen. He grasps that.”
The Mariners emphasize the off-field growth of their young players, from teaching them how to handle finances, social situations and, in the case of those who haven’t been in this country for long, English.
It’s part of the organization’s effort to eliminate situations – Grifol calls them “interferences” – that may have a negative impact on players’ performances.
On the field, Friday was another day of growth for the biggest player at spring training with the Mariners. Pineda, 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, allowed four hits and two runs in three innings in the Mariners’ 5-5 tie against the Cleveland Indians. He struck out three, walked one and allowed a home run in his 49-pitch outing.
Ackley’s long, busy day
Dustin Ackley played all 10 innings Friday and had his busiest day all-around, with several plays in the field, at the plate and on the bases. He went 1 for 3 with a second-inning RBI single, plus two walks, two strikeouts, two runs, a stolen base, three putouts and four assists at second base.
Among his putouts was a long run down the right-field line to catch a pop foul near the grandstand railing.
Ackley is batting .250 and, according to manager Eric Wedge, getting more comfortable at second base, a position he’d never played until last year.
Outfielder Michael Saunders has struggled so far at the plate, but he went 1 for 3 and looked more comfortable than he had in his previous eight games. He singled to right field in the second inning, flied out to center in the third and grounded out hard to first base in the fifth.