Righthander Ljay Newsome knew he put in more work this offseason than ever before, but even he didn’t expect results to follow so quickly.
The 22-year-old Newsome had about as dominant an April as any minor league pitcher, allowing just six runs over six starts for high Class A Modesto. Through 10 starts he had gone 5-2, 2.01 with 82 strikeouts and six walks in 58.1 innings.
The Mariners drafted Newsome out of high school in Morganza, Md., in the 26th round in 2015. The fifth-year pro also spent last season in the California League.
Newsome’s strikeout rate had spiked to 12.7 per nine inning after checking in at 8.0 last season. He earned the California League player of the month award for April.
“To get the results I’m getting after all that hard work I did this offseason, it’s pretty amazing,” Newsome said.
Newsome, who recorded a 4.87 ERA last year, credits much of his success to his offseason strength programs.
Newsome sat mostly between 87-89 mph with his fastball a year ago, occasionally topping out at 91. This year he said he was consistently sitting 90-94.
“It feels so good,” he said. “The results have been a little surprising, but I’m just going out and trying to do my business on the mound. I try not to worry about all the numbers.”
Newsome participated in Driveline’s throwing program in the offseason. The Kent, Wash., company helped him focus on getting his arm healthier. He also was part of the Mariners’ offseason “Gas Camp,” which is designed for pitchers who already have solid secondary pitches and command but need to add velocity.
“It was also just learning how my stuff plays in the strike zone,” Newsome said. “Last year my stuff was working down. This year’s I’ve been throwing up (in the zone) more.
“I have a little bit of rise to my fastball, so I’m throwing the ball up and letting the ball take its path. Those couple extra ticks on my fastball help.”
— Low Class A West Virginia righthander Logan Gilbert carved up South Atlantic League batters so easily that the Mariners promoted their 2018 first-round pick out of Stetson to Modesto. Gilbert didn’t pitch last season after signing because of mono.
— Outfielder Braden Bishop didn’t take long to get his swing back. After making his big league debut (going 2-for-20 in eight games), Bishop went 5-for-15 with three homers in his first week back at Triple-A Tacoma.