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Servais: Mariners’ Kyle Seager using whole field more, could have big year

Kyle Seager is a one-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner who has hit at least 20 home runs in each of his six full major league seasons. Yet there’s still a hope that the Mariners’ 30-year-old third baseman can put together a season that isn’t just good or very good, but great.

That may come this year, and if so, adjustments he’s made at the plate could be the reason why.

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“Kyle is always tweaking with his mechanics and one of the things that I did notice different is that he was able to (get) on top of balls, hitting them the other way,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore about Seager this spring training.

Servais hopes that a new focus on using more of the field while in the batter’s box will help Seager shake off a somewhat down year in 2017 when he finished with a .249 batting average and 2.5 WAR, both career-lows for a full MLB season by Seager.

“I think last year wasn’t a typical Kyle Seager year,” Servais said. “You look at the overall numbers and I think they’re pretty good, they’re very respectable. He’s a heck of a player, I love putting his name in the lineup every day, but I think he’s looking for a little bit more. He certainly knows there’s more in the tank there and he can do more.

“He just never really got on that hot streak last year. We’ve always seen him have those two- or three-week streaks where he carries the team. Didn’t see it so much last year, but he’s been in a great place all spring. Really excited about the year he’s gonna have.”

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Through Wednesday, Seager has a .300/.349/.450 slash line in 14 Cactus League games with a home run, three doubles, four RBIs and two walks.

Teams have used defensive shifts against the pull-heavy Seager in recent years, but he’s shown more promise hitting to the opposite field this spring (see video above), which could eventually force teams to stop shifting on him. That isn’t for certain what motivated Seager’s adjustments, however.

“(He’s hitting) hard ground balls, line drives into left-center field – we’ve all seen Kyle hit so many balls off the bat that get caught right at the wall. You know, those long, high fly balls into left-center field at Safeco,” Servais said. “… I think as far as his approach and what he’s trying to do, I don’t think it’s necessarily geared to beating the shift. (But) I think that’s going to be the end result of it because he’s using the whole field more to hit, which makes him a more dangerous hitter and certainly a guy (that has an) opportunity to drive in over 100 runs this year.”

Hear the full interview with Servais in the Danny, Dave and Moore podcast.

Jim Moore’s observations from Mariners spring training