By Shannon Drayer
There is a different feeling in the Mariners clubhouse. It’s impossible to miss but Brendan Ryan gave a little more insight into how this current group of Mariners have come together before the game against the A’s in my Mariners Clubhouse Insider segment on the pregame show Monday.
“There’s a very different feeling going into Opening Day than the last couple of years,” he said sitting in the visitor’s dugout. “There is a strong belief in there, if we stay together and execute and be good teammates, good things could be down the road.”
Brendan Ryan says there’s a different feeling in the M’s clubhouse compared to previous seasons. (AP)
While it would seem this could be a given for a team with 162 games ahead of it, in reality it’s not. Two years ago it was the year of evaluation. Last year it was about getting the kids more experience. Expectations were for improvement, at best. This year is a different story. A middle of the order has been brought in and according to Ryan and others, the new vets have made an impression both on and off the field.
“It’s pretty cool,” Ryan said. “This is a very tight-knit group already. There is a sense of confidence, a sense of calm. We’ve got a lot of firsts out of the way. That anxiety or nervousness that you carry in your first year is kind of gone then you bring in guys like Ibanez, Morales and Morse? That obviously adds more noise to the lineup and in the clubhouse.”
With Ibanez, the doctor was in from day one. While there is no doubt he leads by example with a tireless routine to keep himself ready, he doesn’t wait for young guys to come to him. Morse is a presence and Morales has mixed well with everybody, according to Justin Smoak.
“He cares about everybody, he’s easy to talk to, easy to mess around with and just watching him hit, you feel like every pitch the pitcher throws at him, I am waiting for something loud to happen,” Smoak said. “He has a plan every time he goes up there and it is great to learn from him.”
Off the field the vets have taken charge as well. Yesterday they held a players’ only meeting in the dugout after the mandatory workout at the Coliseum. What was said is between them. But they were pretty fired up when the meeting ended and they headed back up to the clubhouse. I’m not one who puts a ton of stock into meetings but this one seemed to get them together, and there is value in that. Who would have called that meeting last year?
The group that is on the field is somewhat of a Plan B. Jack Zduriencik tried to bring in Josh Hamilton. He tried to trade for Justin Upton. I am not sure going with the number of one-year guys he did was what he had in mind in October. Still, Ibanez was a likely target and the “core players” are still here. They are young, but not completely green. There are the vets and then there are a couple of players who could be on the verge of really breaking out. According to Ryan, it might just be the right mix to make this an interesting summer.
“On the field and off the field, it all is kind of making sense,” he said. “So we are kind of anxious to size ourselves up to the rest of the league.”