Drayer’s Notebook: Excitement, not nervous, evident for Mariners in Toronto

Mariners Mitch Haniger...

TORONTO – The Mariners ran an optional workout Thursday afternoon at Rogers Center ahead of Friday’s Game 1 in their best-of-three series against the Blue Jays.

How M’s starting rotation looks for Wild Card round vs Blue Jays

While the team arrived at Pearson International (YYZ for you Rush fans) in the wee hours of the morning, there wasn’t a bleary eye to be seen, nor was there any sign of uneasiness or nerves. No, the feeling around the club as they ran a normal pregame workout was excitement. The only thing missing was the game.

Like the fans, it would seem that game can’t come soon enough for this group.

“There’s excitement,” said Robbie Ray, who won the Cy Young Award last year as a member of the Blue Jays. “I think a lot of them are excited to be here, to be where we are at, excited about the unknown. A lot of them haven’t been here. They’re excited to see what the atmosphere is going to be like tomorrow. Still kind of riding that high from breaking the drought. We finished the season strong, feeling really good about where we are at and ready to keep rolling.”

“I’ve dreamed about it growing up, it’s a big deal,” said fellow pitcher Logan Gilbert. “There’s so much excitement, buzz going around right now. I’m just trying to take it in. Enjoy it.”

As a starting pitcher, Gilbert will have the opportunity to take it in more than most as he will likely not pitch until Game 3. He’s looking forward to having a front-rail seat to watch Luis Castillo pitch Friday afternoon.

“He’s one of my favorites to watch just because he’s so comfortable out there,” Gilbert said. “When we talk about having fun and playing with freedom and all that stuff, that’s what you see out there. He plays like he’s just having fun. The good thing is he throws 100 (mph) and he’s got the nastiest pitches in the world. He makes it look easy but it’s fun to watch. There’s something to be said for that and I think that’s part of the reason that makes him so good.”

Not quite the approach taken by Logan – or his pitch-day alter ego “Walter.” He is as intense as they get but can appreciate what he sees from Castillo. In the middle of the intensity spectrum is first baseman Ty France, who admits there will be plenty of unknown on Friday.

“I also think a lot of us don’t know what to expect,” France said. “For a lot of us this is our first go-around. Personally, I think I am going to try and treat it like any other game. It’s still baseball, it’s the same game. I know it has more meaning to it, but the smaller you can make it feel, the easier it is to go out there and play baseball. I think we are all in a good spot. I think there’s a lot of different thoughts and emotions. We’re motivated, we’re excited to get out there and try and bring playoff baseball back to Seattle for good.”

Catcher Cal Raleigh – who by all accounts still has not completely processed what he did with his drought-ending, walk-off home run last Friday night – takes the same approach to this unknown that he does with every pressure situation. He embraces it.

“This is what you play for,” he said. “It’s somewhere a lot of guys haven’t been. I don’t know if we know what to expect but I know we know how to play baseball. At the end of the day that’s what we are doing and we are excited to be here.”

Something to fall back on. There’s no telling how the situation and environment will affect this young Mariners team, and they understand that. The only thing left to do is find out.

Ratings

• The Mariners are not expected to announce their Wild Card roster until between 6 and 7 am Pacific Friday morning. They are still debating whether or not to use the final roster spot for an additional pitcher or position player, who likely would be outfielder Cade Marlowe.

• The rotation order for now is Castillo in Game 1, Ray in Game 2 and Gilbert in Game 3. In his session with the media Thursday, manager Scott Servais said that they could switch things up depending on the outcome of Game 1, but I am hearing it is unlikely they do that as they would like their starters to have a good idea of ​​their schedule a couple of days ahead.

• The Blue Jays worked out on the field following the Mariners’ session. One thing to keep an eye on, they did a ton of PFP (pitchers fielding practice) and pickoff drills, with the relievers throwing to all three bases.

• The belief is the dome at Rogers Center will be closed for Game 1. There is no rain in the forecast but the shadows with the 4:07 pm local time start (1:07 pm in Seattle) could be troublesome. No doubt the amplified crowd noise for the home team plays a role in this decision, as well.

• Left fielder Jesse Winker was not with the team as he traveled to get a second opinion on the neck injury that landed him on the injured list Wednesday. The team traveled 33 players total, some members of the taxi squad and a couple of others who are on the IL. Catcher Tom Murphy, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in June, is expected to join the team Friday.

• Mariners Radio Network coverage of the first two games of the series will start at noon with the pregame show on Seattle Sports 710 AM. For more details on the broadcasts, click here.

More on the Mariners from Seattle Sports

• M’s-Jays a battle of strengths with Seattle’s arms and Toronto’s bats
• Fann: Emotionally preparing for first Mariners playoff series in 21 years
• The defining factors in Wild Card series between Mariners and Blue Jays
• ESPN’s Passan: Key for Mariners to beat Blue Jays in playoff series

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