Wolf shows encouraging signs in comeback attempt
Ackley drills homer off Bauer to deep center in the fourth
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Randy Wolf's comeback is far from complete, but Sunday marked an important step for the Mariners left-hander.
When Wolf took the mound at Goodyear Ballpark in Seattle's 6-3 loss to the Indians, it marked his first start in a big league game since Sept. 22, 2012. It was an afternoon based around comebacks. Wolf is making his way back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and Aaron Harang, Cleveland's starter, is aiming to bounce back from a subpar showing last season.
Wolfe -- a 14-year Major League veteran -- is trying to earn a rotation spot as a non-roster invitee. Injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker have upped the lefty's chances considerably.
"It was weird being out there, definitely," Wolf said. "It's been a long time. Spring Training games you really don't have that many nerves, but when you haven't been out there for 17 months, you realize you miss the game a lot. To be out there and be healthy, not that I ever took it for granted before, but you really appreciate being out here in a Spring Training game, even if it is your first start on March 2."
Wolf logged two innings for Seattle, allowing no runs on one hit and finishing with one strikeout and one walks.
Harang, who spent part of last season with the Mariners, turned in two innings for Cleveland, but surrendered one run on a first-inning groundout off the bat of Robinson Cano (0-for-2 on the day). Harang is currently competing against Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer for the fifth spot in the Indians' rotation.
Bauer followed Harang, and also spun together two innings, ending with two runs allowed on two hits with two strikeouts and no walks. During recent mound workouts and in his first spring outing, Bauer struggled to command the strike zone, but the right-hander felt he made improvement in that area against the Mariners.
"The ball was going over the plate, which was nice," Bauer said. "I'm weird, though. When I try to command the ball, I don't command it very well. So, I kind of have to go out there and just let it rip and trust that it will go over the plate. That's why, when I didn't really trust my delivery [last season], it was tough to throw strikes. That trust factor wasn't there."
The Mariners got to Bauer in the fourth inning, when Dustin Ackley drilled a pitch to deep center field, where it caromed high off the green batter's backdrop. The pitcher knew it was a home run right away.
"The only question was was, 'Would it go over the batter's eye?'" Bauer said. "I originally wasn't going to watch it, but then I was like, 'That might go over. That might be impressive.' So I turned around. He hit it and it was like, 'Ah, well. Give me a new ball.'"
Cleveland countered with three runs against Seattle reliever Tom Wilhelmsen in the fifth inning. In his Cactus League debut, Indians first baseman Nick Swisher got things started with a fielder's choice groundout that scored Yan Gomes from third base. Swisher then scored on a triple from Jason Kipnis, who crossed the plate later in the frame.
In the seventh inning, shortstop Francisco Lindor -- Cleveland's top prospect -- launched a three-run home run off reliever Logan Lawcom to push the Tribe to a 6-3 lead. Lindor, who is in his first big league camp with the Indians, was selected in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Santana -- manning third base for the Tribe for only the second time this spring -- had one ball hit his way in the field. In the first inning, Corey Hart chopped a pitch to the left side of the infield, where Santana gloved it, but threw wildly across the diamond. Hart reached on the error, but Harang escaped further harm in the inning.
Up next: The Mariners have their first split-squad games of the spring, with Blake Beavan facing the Rockies in Peoria and Erasmo Ramirez opening on the mound against the Reds in Goodyear. Both games start at 12:05 p.m. PT. A few of the Mariners regulars will be at Goodyear, including catcher Mike Zunino and DH Logan Morrison, but most of the starting position players - including Cano -- will stay home in Peoria. Beavan and Ramirez will both be making their second appearances of the spring as the two young right-handers compete for rotation berths.