Noesi not worrying about role at camp

Noesi not worrying about role at camp

Noesi not worrying about role at camp
PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero last month, all the immediate talk focused on the gamble of dealing away such a promising pitcher for the young Yankees catcher. But Seattle added an arm in that deal as well, with right-hander Hector Noesi expected to challenge for a rotation spot this spring.

Noesi, 25, isn't worrying about his role as Mariners camp kicks off in Arizona. He's more concerned with just getting his feet underneath him and learning his way with a new team and teammates. Yet he figures prominently in the Mariners' plans as they prepare for manager Eric Wedge's second season in Seattle.

"I was excited because it's an opportunity here," Noesi said Monday in the team's Peoria Sports Complex clubhouse. "And things happen, because that's the way of this life. But I was surprised, too, because I thought they would let me stay with them. I thought, 'What am I doing now?' Everything is different."

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Dominican threw his first bullpen session Monday, displaying the easy delivery and glove-popping fastball which intrigue the Mariners.

He pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year as a rookie with the Yankees, but came up through their system as a starter and relishes the idea of returning to that role.

"Yeah, that's a good thing," Noesi said with a smile. "Last year I was reliever. I felt it was easy because I'd work one inning, two innings, sometimes they used me three innings like a long reliever. So it's more easy. But I've always liked to start."

He did make two late-season fill-in starts for the Yankees, both against the Rays. The first was Sept. 21, when Phil Hughes came up injured. Noesi went just 2 2/3 innings while allowing a pair of runs, but the Yankees pulled out a 4-2 win that clinched a playoff berth.

Noesi then got one more spot start five days later with the Yankees looking to rest their rotation for the playoffs and took the loss after allowing three runs and five hits in two innings.

But it's reasonable to note that Noesi hadn't been prepped as a starter at that point and had an excellent 2-1 record and 3.42 ERA in his first 26 appearances before the late-season blip in his last four outings raised his final ERA to 4.47.

"They were trying to rest our people who were going to play in the playoffs and they tried to give me a start to get comfortable," Noesi said. "Because when I went to the Dominican, I was starting there, too."

Noesi went 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 starts for Tigres Del Licey in the Dominican Winter League and comes to Mariners camp with a live arm and an excellent opportunity.

"He looked good," Wedge said after watching Noesi throw his bullpen session. "As you know, we did a lot of studying on him over the course of the offseason and leading up to the trade and we're really happy and excited to have him in camp. He's a good, young arm. As a starting pitcher, I like the way he stays fluid in his delivery and consistent with his line to home plate and his release point. The ball comes out of his hand nice."

Noesi began playing baseball at age 4 in Esperanza in the Dominican Republic and signed with the Yankees in '04. Tommy John surgery slowed his early progress, but he made a big jump in 2010 when he went 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA in 27 starts at three different Minor League levels with 153 strikeouts and 31 walks in 160 1/3 innings.

Scouts are high on his ability to pound the zone with his fastball, but he calls his changeup his best pitch.

His biggest strength, however?

"Control," Noesi said. "Throwing strikes. A lot."

He'll get that chance with the Mariners, who need to fill out a rotation that saw Doug Fister and Erik Bedard traded last season and Pineda dealt over the winter.

Noesi pencils into a potential back-end slot at the moment, but much will be determined this spring. For now, he's not playing that guessing game, however.

"I don't think about all that right now," he said. "I'll just try to do my best and get ready for whatever."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.