Notebook: Opening day will have special meaning for trio of young Mariners who made the roster
PEORIA, Ariz. – The tiny bit of suspense that remained with the few position battles the Mariners had heading into camp was wiped out Friday afternoon with a series of roster moves that left the active roster at 25. The closest thing the Mariners had to a surprise was going with three lefties in the bullpen, with Dillon Overton getting the nod over the remaining potential righty reliever in camp, Jonathan Aro. For Overton, who made his big league debut with the A’s last year pitching 24 innings in a handful of outings, making the opening day roster is special, even if he can’t be there.
“I’d say it’s one of the coolest things that has happened in my life up until – well, Tuesday I’m having a baby,” Overton said. “It’s the coolest thing that has happened in my life until Tuesday, and then that baby coming into my life will be the coolest thing.”
Overton will miss opening day as the Mariners want him to be present for a more important debut. The team will place Overton on the paternity list, allowing them to replace him with another player for a few days.
“He’s earned the right to make our opening day club and we didn’t want to penalize him because he was going to be a dad for the first time,” manager Scott Servais said. “There are priorities and we will make sure he is there for the birth of his first child. Just trying to get more details on how we will handle that situation.”
As for fellow southpaw James Pazos, who was acquired from the Yankees in what general manager Jerry Dipoto termed earlier in the day a somewhat sneaky, under-the-radar trade, Servais sees the lefty as someone who could eventually work his way toward the back end of the bullpen.
“We really like what Pazos brings,” Servais said. “It’s power, left-handed. The ability to land the breaking ball is what kind of is the separator for me. He is really excited for the opportunity.”
Utility man Taylor Motter also makes his first opening day roster. For him, Day 1 in a big league uniform marks a new, positive start.
“It means that my life is going in the right direction,” he said. “I am very happy, very excited where I am. Everything works out for a reason. Just being here all spring was an eye-opening, great experience.”
Motter said from the first day in camp, teammates and coaches made him feel welcome and that Servais’ early morning daily meetings had an impact.
“To get to know my new teammates, inside-out, families, hobbies, the things that they do outside of baseball,” he said. “It’s not just be a good teammate, be a good teammate, a good person, and let the rest take care of itself.”
Overton also said that the welcoming atmosphere was a difference-maker for him.
“I’ve said from early on, change of scenery would be good for me,” he said. “I prayed a lot, I leaned on God to help me through it. It’s worked out better than I could imagine. I’ve had a really good spring. This team is awesome, they are fun to be around. As much as they like me, it’s awesome to feel wanted.”
The Overton and Pazos conversations were the easy ones to have. The conversations with those players who are not on the final 25-man roster were a bit tougher for Servais.
“I think the message that we did send to the guys who did not make the team is they will be a part of it at some point, they did earn our trust and we can go to them and feel good about having them,” he said.
One of those players was outfielder Ben Gamel, a left-handed swinger who showed well in every aspect of his game. The Mariners opted to go with righty-swinging Guillermo Heredia instead.
“They both had good springs,” Servais acknowledged. “I think the the right-handed bat, we are going to give (Jarrod) Dyson every opportunity to play every day but he hasn’t done it yet in the big leagues and I think Heredia earned his way on to the team. I think the adjustment he has made with the bat and carried it out throughout the spring, good for him.”
The Mariners are going with what is very close to their everyday lineup Friday night, with the regulars expected to play the majority of the game.
Jean Segura, SS
Mitch Haniger, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Danny Valencia, 1B
Leonys Martin, CF
Carlos Ruiz, C
Jarrod Dyson, LF
James Paxton, LHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Edwin Diaz, Evan Scribner, Nick Vincent, Dillon Overton, Marc Rzepczynski, James Pazos.
• Yovani Gallardo will start the Mariners’ final game of the spring Saturday against the Rockies and is scheduled to pitch only two or three innings. Ariel Miranda, who now slots into the No. 4 spot in the rotation with Drew Smyly on the DL, is scheduled to get five innings in that game.
• Mitch Haniger leads baseball in doubles this spring with 11, a new Cactus League record.
• Mariners hitters have drawn 139 walks this spring, the most in the majors. Mariners pitchers have issued the third-least walks (87).