Taylor Motter made the Mariners’ opening-day roster out of spring training as a utility player, but he’s made the most of an opportunity over the past week to prove that he can do more than what that role requires.
With Jean Segura on the disabled list with a mild hamstring strain, Motter has been a revelation filling in for him at shortstop. And while he has played competent defense at one of the most demanding positions on the field, it’s what he’s done at the plate that has truly turned heads. Motter is hitting .321 with a .387 on-base percentage, .786 slugging percentage, six RBIs and three home runs, the latest of which was a 413-foot moonshot into the upper deck at Safeco Field in Monday night’s 6-1 win over the Marlins.
With Segura expected back later this week from his injury, however, Motter will return to the utility role, though the 27-year-old’s hot streak has made his manager re-think how much playing time he’ll receive.
“He’s earned a right to be in the lineup on a more consistent basis, and we’ll do everything we can to keep him in there,” Mariners skipper Scott Servais said after Monday’s victory.
The only question is where on the field Motter will find himself playing to get that extra time. Servais gave an indication that it likely won’t be at any one position for an extended period, but perhaps in a super utility role like Ben Zobrist has played throughout his career on Joe Maddon’s teams in Tampa Bay and now with the Cubs.
“I think it kinda fits into our original plan. He’s so versatile,” Servais said. “He can run into the outfield, different parts of the infield. Now you can start looking at maybe giving a guy a day off here or there, if (Kyle Seager) needs one or Robbie (Cano) DH a day, and do some different things at first base … (or) in the outfield.”
Servais wouldn’t have to answer questions about where Motter and his trademark long blond hair fits into the everyday lineup if it weren’t for the sudden fan favorite’s impressive work in the batter’s box, though.
“The ball jumps off his bat very good. He’s a good fastball hitter – looking for his pitch, he’s getting it, he ain’t missing it,” Servais said. “He’s brought a very nice spark to our team. I know that it’s the character and it’s the hair and all the other stuff; you can do all of those things, but you still gotta be a good player, otherwise it doesn’t do anything, and he’s played great. Really stepped up when we needed him with Segura being down.”