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Mariners Corner: A Familiar Face

Instead of writing another addition of Mariners Corner, I should be finishing my break-down of the New York Yankees, in my AL East preview. But even sports writers procrastinate.

Rather than fulfill my Not in HD baseball writing obligations, I instead feel compelled to spend my time concentrating on the Pacific Northwest tonight. Specifically, on the tug of inspiration I experienced while watching one of Seattle’s prized young arms dissect the Oakland A’s, out-dueling 22-year-old phenom, Brett Anderson in the process.

With an unbearably rough start to the season (3-6 after tonight’s win) for some, the Mariners needed something fantastic. They got two such things. One, a go-ahead three-run-jack off the bat of resident loony house director, Milton Bradley. And the other, a gem of a game pitched by young Doug Fister.

I really shouldn’t be surprised at anything the six-foot-eight righty does. After all, I had as good a view as any at his stuff for many years.

It’s still a little strange to watch Fister pitch. I have casually mentioned this once before, but for those who don’t already know, I played high school ball with him in Merced, California. Not only that, but when I was a senior and he a junior, the guy beat me out for the starting first base job.

Trust me, saying I got beat-out for a spot in the lineup didn’t sound near as cool then, before I could tack on “to a future big leaguer” at the end of the sentence. It pretty much blew. But now, I couldn’t be prouder.

My only question regarding Fister is: Does having played with him in high school, make me the right or wrong person to break down his skill set and potential with the Mariners? A question I honestly don’t know the answer to.

I can’t pretend I don’t have bias; I PLAYED with the guy. That’s pretty sweet. I want him to do well. More than most players. More than players on the Dodgers or A’s. More than players on my keeper and auction dynasty league teams.

Ok, ALMOST more than my keeper and auction dynasty league teams. Almost.

I know his stuff. At least, what I remember from 2001 anyway. When Fister was nothing more than a lanky 17-year-old with good control, a pretty sweet swing and loads of potential.

But his bag of tricks isn’t much different now. More bite to his pitches and six-seven additional ticks on the radar gun to be sure, but the same basic way of getting guys out. Efficient and effective.

Fister still has an excellent deuce, a very good change-up and a fastball that is a little short on the fast part – at least for what you would expect from a player of Fister’s stature – but has plenty of dart to it, making up for the fact that he barely throws harder than Trevor Hoffman… who is a future Hall of Famer by the way. And just ask Justin Duchscherer of the A’s, who threw up a bunch of zeroes of his own Monday night against the M’s, if being unable to break 90 on the gun has hurt his feelings or confidence much. Duke is a former All-Star. I don’t think he minds.

Nor does Doug Fister. He doesn’t have to break the sound barrier to break your bat. His two-seamer does that quite nicely all the same, thank you very much.

The 26-year-old relies on outstanding control and keeping hitters off-balance. Which is great unless he can’t stop that curve on a dime on some given day, which is when he can be susceptible to the occasional frozen-rope. The great news is Fister usually can bend his breaking ball anywhere he wants it. And doesn’t that describe roughly 85-percent of starters in MLB anyway? If you don’t have control, you WILL get hit. Hard. All over the yard.

Not many guys can rely on a 98 MPH heater to overcome shaky command.

The moral of the story is: I’m not sure if I am the right guy to shed perspective on Doug Fister’s Major League future. And I’m also not sure that I’m not. But I do know that if he keeps chucking up three-hitters, as he was able to do against Oakland on Tuesday night, he will have a  STRONG hold on a place in Seattle’s rotation. And his star will shine brightly. As will Seattle in the West.

Even more so, I know that it is still surreal watching my former teammate shut-out big league hitters. A tip of the cap from all of us, Doug. Keep mowing ’em down.

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