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Kelley feeling confident this time around

Unlike last year, M’s reliever Shawn Kelley is working on his delivery instead of working on making the team

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By Kirby Arnold
Herald Writer
Published:
  • M’s reliever Shawn Kelley feels more secure about his making the big league squad this season.

    AP

    M’s reliever Shawn Kelley feels more secure about his making the big league squad this season.

PEORIA, Ariz. — Shawn Kelley remembers too well what the final week of spring training was like for last year.
“I was just a cluster,” he said.
A cluster of nerves. A cluster of anxiety in his first major league spring training camp. A cluster of uncertainty over whether he would start the season in the big leagues or the minors.
Kelley had never pitched above the Class AA level, but he dazzled the Seattle Mariners at spring training with a strong right arm that would fit well into their bullpen for 2009.
He pitched well the final week of camp but, like many young players knowing how close they are to making the team, felt the pressure.
“You can be great all spring and come down to the last couple of days and you can’t throw a strike,” Kelley said. “Then they might say, ‘Yeah, he had a great camp and we thought about it, but we’re going a different direction.’
“Until they told me I’d made the team, every outing I felt like was Game 7 of the World Series,” Kelley said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know if I was going on the Vegas trip last year until the day before. And even when I was on the Vegas trip, I didn’t know if I was flying back here or if I was going to West Tennessee or going to Tacoma. I didn’t know anything.”
Things are a lot more certain for Kelley now.
For one thing, he knows he’s going to Albuquerque for the Mariners’ two exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Colorado Rockies.
“I know I’m going because I’ve got the schedule,” Kelley said. “This year has been more about working on some things to prepare for the season. Last year it was very much result-oriented.”
Kelley’s role will be a little different, more as a multiple-inning reliever compared with mostly one-inning stints last year. Because of that, he’s throwing a changeup for the first time since he was a starter in college at Austin Peay in 2007.
Besides that, he has altered his setup over the rubber as he starts his delivery and says it feels natural now.
“The last couple of outings, I haven’t even thought about it,” he said Monday after throwing 30 pitches in a minor league intrasquad game.
“I’ve always been a guy who started tall with hands high and a big leg kick, and kind of spun and loaded up and threw,” Kelley said. “Now I’m focusing more on using my legs, not necessarily to throw harder but to take pressure off all the strain that I was putting on my arm.”
Kelley suspects it could have been a reason he suffered a strained oblique when he threw a pitch on May 5.
“That could have been one reason I put the pressure on the oblique,” he said. “Before, I went out there and let it go as hard as I could. Now we’re simplifying it a little bit and taking some pressure off the upper body and putting it on the legs.
“Now, I feel like I’m prepared for the season. I feel like my arm is there and my pitchers are there and I’m comfortable with my new setup.”
And, he’s more secure about his place on the team.
Story tags » Mariners

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