Pitcher Mac Suzuki, the Mariners talented minor-league free-agent signee, was just finishing up his workout on the bullpen mound last night when pitching coach Sammy Ellis gave his assessment to the gathering.
"Heck with the Instructional League," Ellis said, "let's just leave this kid here."
That brought a smile and a reflective look in the eyes of Manager Lou Piniella.
"I think we better stop right now," said Scouting Director Roger Jongewaard, noting the expression, "before Lou gets any ideas."
That's the kind of reaction Suzuki is generating. The 6-foot-4 right-handed power pitcher, who just turned 18 in May, may rocket through the system faster than anyone expected.
Piniella, who promoted two pitchers from Class A to start the 1993 season, does not deny that Suzuki can't make next season's club.
"Let me say this," he said. "When we leave spring training next year, we're going to take the very best staff we can. Age is no detrient.
"We'll see next spring."
Suzuki played for Class A San Bernardino last season, getting better as the season progressed. He throws a 95-mph fastball and two other outstanding pitches, change and curve.
He worked as a closer for the Spirit, an independent California League team. He was a free agent and the Mariners won the bidding war for his services from among seven other offers.
"He's a good-looking kid," Ellis said. "He has an excellent straight change. He had good spin on his curveball and a lot of acceleration on his fastball.
"If you watch him throw, he's a big-league pitcher. I wish I had 10 more just like him."
Piniella liked his effortless delivery and solid mechanics. He said he wasn't "prepared to make the assumption" of whether he would be better as a closer or starter.
"But he has three good pitches. He throws 94-95. It looks like starter stuff to me," he said.
Suzuki will be sent to the Instructional League at the end of the month.
-- The Mariners already have sold enough tickets for the final seven games of this home stand to guarantee two million fans.
Entering last night's game, the team has sold 177,830 tickets. Adding that to the club's previous 1,822,251 in attendance, it equals 2,000,081.
It is the second time the club has surpassed two million, although the first legitimate time. They Mariners also sold 2,147,905 tickets in 1991, but 181,672 were part of a September buyout.
-- Piniella has a bonus in his contract that pays him $50,000 if the club reaches two million fans. Since the club has sold enough tickets in advance to guarantee that, Piniella has said he will donate the $50,000 to the Seattle United Way.
"The way I see it, I'd like to see baseball flourish in the Northwest," Piniella said. "Since I work here and am proud to be affiliated with this organization, I want to do something, in my small part, for the community. So charities will benefit from my contract.
"The players and the staff had a hand in this. They contributed indirectly to it."
-- Entering the game, the Mariners had a major-league-leading .98566 fielding percentage. The big-league record is .98606 by Toronto in 1990.
Besides Toronto, only four teams have had fielding percentages higher than .9855. They are Minnesota (.98571) in 1988, Baltimore (.98603) in 1989, and Milwaukee (.9856) in 1992.
-- The start time for Tuesday's game vs. against Texas has been changed to 7:35 to accomodate accommodate ESPN, which will air the game as a regional telecast blacked out in Seattle.
ATTENDANCE Last night: 17,151. Home season total: 1,822,251. Avg. for 73 games: 24,962.