Mariners: Flexen looks good in first 2023 Cactus League action

Chris Flexen makes a strong impression versus the White Sox on Sunday, despite ongoing speculation about his future with the Mariners.

Chris Flexen has a lot to prove after an up-and-down 2022 campaign, combined with an uncertain future in Seattle. If his first appearance for the Mariners in spring training is any indication, he’ll be just fine.

Flexen made his 2023 Cactus League debut on Sunday afternoon, versus the Chicago White Sox. While the Mariners lost 10-1, he produced a strong individual performance.

The 28-year-old pitched two scoreless innings and gave up just two hits. He threw a couple of strikeouts and allowed no walks, as he regularly got ahead of the opposing batters.

After the game, Flexen was asked about his outing and how he felt in general. He said:

“I feel pretty good right now. The bullpen’s been going pretty well; I’ve been recovering well. I’ve been preparing for this start and it went pretty well today. (Getting ahead of the batters) definitely sets the tempo for me … and I’m trying to get back to being more competitive than I was last year.”

Flexen used all four of his pitches on Sunday versus the White Sox, although he specifically focused on the slider. Speaking about this, he said:

“I definitely worked on it this offseason. The curveball for me last year was a far below average pitch; I just couldn’t figure it out … I need a breaking ball and when I started working on the slider last year I had good results with it. It felt good throwing (it), so that’s the pitch I wanted to continue sticking with. As a starter — if I’m in the rotation — using the curveball is kind of a ‘show me’ pitch just to show I still have it. But I’ll definitely continue to work on the slider and use it in games now.”

Go back in time

It is understandable that Flexen wants to return to his form of 2021. He was arguably the best member of the Mariners’ rotation that year.

The former New York Met led all starters in games started, quality starts, wins, innings pitched and ERA. Last season saw him take a step-back, as he went from the rotation, to the bullpen, to being left off the postseason roster.

This doesn’t mean Flexen does not still have value however. He remains capable of logging major innings and the reality is his 3.73 ERA was only just behind Robbie Ray’s 3.71. (Admittedly though, this can be perceived in more than one way.)

In addition, the Newark, California native actually allowed fewer hits per nine innings in 2022 compared to 2021, at 8.6 vs. 9.3. Also, his strikeouts per nine innings was essentially the same, at 6.2 vs. 6.3.

Uncertain future

Regardless, the ongoing speculation is that Flexen will be traded at some point. He is another reminder that baseball is ultimately a business, no matter how much his personality and talent fit well in Seattle.

In this respect, the righty was asked about the constant rumors, which date back to before last year’s trade deadline. He said

“Not thinking about it is almost impossible. It’s (everywhere), especially with social media and everything. But for me personally, I try not to let it get to me; (I) focus on what I need to focus on. That’s being the best self that I can be and be ready to compete for this ball club and win games.”

No matter what the future may hold for Flexen, he is to be commended for his work ethic, resolve and attitude. As he said:

“I’m still wearing ‘Mariners’ across my chest. I’m happy to be here … this is a great group of guys that are fun to be around. It’s fun to lace it up with them every night.”

Do you believe Flexen will get traded, or remain in Seattle? Assuming he stays, would you like to see him in the Mariners’ rotation or bullpen? Let us know in the comments section below.

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