Prospect Capps brings early heat in camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As Spring Training begins and pitchers begin throwing their first bullpen sessions, pitching coaches invariably warn their players to pace themselves and not get too carried away in their initial outings.

But seconds after Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis issued the "pace yourself" command as his last group of hurlers stepped onto the mounds for a 10-minute outing Wednesday, right-handed reliever Carter Capps reared back and fired a fastball that sizzled through the air and exploded into the mitt of catcher Kelly Shoppach.

There was no radar gun in the practice area at the Peoria Sports Complex, but no measurement was needed to know Capps was throwing gas. The lanky 22-year-old threw consistently in the 100-mph range last year after a midseason callup by the Mariners, and he did not appear to have lost anything over his offseason in North Carolina.

"For me, I'm just trying to make the team," Capps said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm going out there every day trying to win a job. I don't pace myself at all. As far as you can, I'm ready to go. I want to win. That's what I'm trying to do right now. Even in the spring, I want to win every race. I don't take anything off."

Capps wasn't in Major League camp last year and admits there is some difference being under the watchful eye of Mariners coaches and front-office staff, as well as some media and fans in the Peoria complex.

But performing in 18 games with the Mariners last year while posting a 3.96 ERA in 25 innings of work helped prepare Capps, the team's No. 7 prospect, for this stage.

"When you pitch in the big leagues you've got way more eyes and pressure on you," he said. "It's not really that for me. It's just a matter of getting into competition shape and baseball shape. That's all I'm trying to focus on. But, yeah, it's obviously a little different when there are people there. It's usually just quiet with a couple coaches around you with the Minor League guys. So you can tell. But it's a blast."

Manager Eric Wedge took notice of Capps' effort but said he was not worried about having to dial the youngster back or warn him of the long haul ahead.

"He got Shoppach's attention early on, I'll tell you," Wedge said with a smile. "But that's who he is. He's a big, strong kid who throws hard. You look at effort. As long as you don't see guys trying to do too much, that's where we have to pay attention. We've got a lot of eyes on these young pitchers out there, and we have the conversations you have to have with these guys and make sure they stay where they need to stay."