The Mariners’ issues over the past week have been related more to their bullpen than their offense, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the weeds yet at the plate. Especially as it pertains to center fielder Leonys Martin.
Held out of Seattle’s starting lineup for Friday’s series opener against Texas on 710 ESPN Seattle, that may be a regular occurrence for the foreseeable future as Martin works to get his swing in order after a 3 for 36 start.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told “Danny, Dave and Moore” on Thursday that an offseason adjustment made by Martin hasn’t beared fruit, and he is now in the process of moving away from that new approach.
“He went through some pretty significant swing changes in the offseason working on his own with some friends hitting in both Miami and then down in the Dominican Republic with Robbie (Cano) and his crew, and Leo’s come in from the very start of spring training with a much lower hand set,” Dipoto said. “He didn’t hit the ball particularly well in the spring. It’s been a spring-long adjustment for him to try to re-acclimate his swing to his new hand set and it really hasn’t produced a whole lot of results. As you may have noticed over the last four or five days … he made a move toward getting his hands back up into a better position to hit.”
Dipoto said both hitting coach Edgar Martinez and manager Scott Servais talked to Martin about moving his hands up, and there is no doubt with the Mariners that Martin is taking those talks seriously.
“The one thing I know about Leonys is Leonys will work. He will show up every day and he will put in time and he will do what he can to make the adjustments, and we owe it to him to stick with him and give him an opportunity to play through it,” Dipoto said. “Whether that is going to be night after night is gonna depend on the results. At some point you do have produce something.”
The Mariners know from Martin’s hot start in 2016 – he had nine home runs, 20 RBIs, 22 runs scored and a .262/.339/.483 slash line before hitting the disabled list in late May – that there will be strong results to come from his bat if he gets his approach back on track.
“Leonys has all the physical ability in the world, the bat speed is never a question, he has more power than most people would ever realize, he’s playing an excellent center field,” Dipoto said. “The downside is 3 for 36 isn’t going to work and we have to make an adjustment that will get back to being a productive offensive player like he was throughout the first half of last season.
“We need to get back to that guy.”
Shuffle in the bullpen
Tony Zych has made his return to Seattle’s stable of relief pitchers after an injury-plagued year that saw him miss several months with shoulder tendinitis in 2016, then have to go in for right shoulder biceps tendon transfer surgery after just two appearances last August. Manager Scott Servais is certainly happy to be able to use him again, as the Mariners’ bullpen has been under siege in recent games.
“He’s made a few adjustments mechanically that he feels really good about. I do as well. I think his ability to throw strikes and work his stuff at the bottom of the strike zone will be a nice benefit for us,” Servais said. “Tony’s healthy. He’s excited to get back, looks great, ball’s coming out of his hand really good.”
For now, Servais plans to use him in middle relief, an area that has been problematic thus far for Seattle.
“We’ve struggled in the middle of the game, especially recently. Coming in there, maybe (Zych’s role will be) getting a big right-handed hitter out in a tough spot, or letting him run through three, four hitters in the sixth, seventh inning.”
The Mariners sent down lefty Dillon Overton to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for Zych. Servais said he’ll return to starting with the Rainiers after being early-season insurance for the M’s.
“Tough spot to put him in; he’s never relieved much,” Servais said. “We carried him because we weren’t quite sure where our starters were at coming out of spring training. … making sure we had enough length in there.”
• Shortstop Jean Segura (mild hamstring strain) has not yet progressed to on-field work but is doing strengthening exercises, according to Servais. “He’s feeling better,” Servais said. Segura will be eligible to return from the 10-day DL late next week.
• Right-handed reliever Steve Cishek (recovering from surgery to repair a torn hip labrum) is a few days from starting a rehab assignment and will get three or four outings in the minors before returning to Seattle, Servais said.
• The Mariners made a minor trade Friday, sending minor league pitcher Paul Fry to Baltimore for the Orioles’ international signing slot No. 105. Fry was designated for assignment Tuesday to make room for Mike Freeman on the 40-man roster, who was called up from Tacoma when Segura hit the DL.
• The Mariners have Guillermo Heredia leading off and playing left field on Friday against the Rangers (full lineup here). With a run of left-handed starters set to oppose Seattle in the near future, Servais said he’ll be seeing more regular playing time.