Newly acquired Jesse Winker might have given Seattle fans some pause when he went 2-for-30 with 10 strikeouts in spring training.
But he showed in Friday’s season opener that spring statistics don’t matter. Winker went 2-for-4 and drew a walk as the Mariners defeated the host Minnesota Twins 2-1.
The teams will continue their four-game series Saturday afternoon at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“My first spring training in the bushes (low minors), I didn’t worry about (stats),” said Winker, a left fielder who came to the Mariners along with third baseman Eugenio Suarez in an offseason trade with Cincinnati. “I got traded and my job was to prepare my body and prepare my mind. I felt like my swing was coming along.”
Mariners right-hander Logan Gilbert, who went 6-5 with a 4.68 ERA in 24 starts as a rookie last season, will try Saturday to follow the example Robbie Ray set in his first appearance against Minnesota.
Ray, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner with Toronto before signing with the Mariners as a free agent in the offseason, pitched seven innings Friday, giving up one run on three hits with five strikeouts.
The Twins plan to counter with right-hander Sonny Gray, who went 7-9 with a 4.19 ERA last season as a teammate of Winker and Suarez in Cincinnati. Gray is 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 career starts against Seattle.
Minnesota’s lone run Friday came on a solo homer by newcomer Gio Urshela in the fourth inning.
The Twins got a leadoff single in the ninth by Luis Arraez, but Gary Sanchez flew out to the warning track in left field to end the game, with Winker making the catch with his back up against the wall.
“I thought it was gone, but today wasn’t the day,” Sanchez said through a translator.
Added Winker: “I was getting ready to jump, then I realized I didn’t have to. Luckily I was playing deep and just wanted to get back to the wall and find the ball again.
“I thought I was going to have to jump and bring something back (from over the wall) and I can’t jump that high.”
Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who got a seven-year, $100 million extension in the offseason, left four runners on base, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Shortstop Carlos Correa, signed to a three-year, $105.3 million contract as a free agent from Houston, went 1-for-4 and also left four runners on. He did make a diving stop to save a run.
“Ray’s one of the best pitchers out there, and he made good pitches,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Those are the guys we want up there in those spots every time. We got what we wanted, and we’ll take our chances every time with Buck and Correa coming up right there.”
The Mariners announced they signed shortstop J.P. Crawford to a five-year, $51 million deal shortly before the opener.
–Field Level Media