PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mayckol Guaipe used to joke with fellow Venezuelan pitching prospect Victor Sanchez about stealing his No. 48 jersey number from him when he had a chance when they were teammates and roommates together in Double-A Jackson in 2014.
So it is with sadness and irony that Guaipe asked the Mariners this spring if he could switch his number from 53 to 48 in honor of his friend, who died last March of head injuries from an offseason boating accident.
"It was just something I thought about since he passed away, something that was on my mind," Guaipe said Tuesday through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "I had the opportunity to do it and I made the change."
Guaipe made his Major League debut last season, putting up a 5.40 ERA in 21 appearances for Seattle just months after his friend died at the age of 20. Sanchez had become one of the Mariners' top pitching prospects since signing with the club in 2011 when he was 16.
"When I got to the big leagues, I thanked God, I thanked my family and I definitely thought of him," Guaipe said. "It was something we both worked really hard for and I felt really proud to make it up there and be able to think of him."
Now the 25-year-old right-hander will look to take his own Major League dream a step further. After struggling in his early appearances, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder put up a 2.70 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 10 innings in his final nine outings, and he's trying to build on that experience this spring.
"You come in with a little more confidence, now that you've made it to the big leagues," Guaipe said. "You just have to keep working hard to have a little more success here.
"Obviously last year I gave up a lot of hits, so that makes me think of location and counts and where to make certain pitches. This year I'm focused on that."
As well as honoring his fallen friend with the number on his back.