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Drayer: With playoff hopes shrinking, Mariners’ focus undergoes a shift

Daniel Vogelbach could see more playing time down the stretch for the Mariners. (AP)

The writing has been on the wall for the Mariners for some time. Sure, if the team had somehow pulled off a sweep of the Yankees and the Athletics cooled off, maybe, just maybe the Mariners could pick up a couple of games on Oakland in the next 15, then head into that final series against the A’s within two or three games of the second American League Wild Card spot.

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The reality of the situation, however, has less to do with the math and more to do with the play that we have seen for the better part of the last two months.

On Saturday afternoon at Safeco Field, the door to the manager’s office in the home clubhouse was closed for nearly two hours with general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais most likely discussing the plan for the final 20 games of the season. While I wouldn’t expect to hear the words “we’re out of it” until the team is mathematically eliminated, on Sunday morning Servais came close for the first time when asked about the approach for the remaining games.

“The key is just show up every day ready to play no matter who’s in the lineup,” Servais said. “We will shift it around a little bit, keep some guys fresh, give some of the younger guys or newer guys the chance to play a little bit.”

There will be plenty of time once the season ends to get into the whys and what’s next for the 2018 Mariners. For now, a shift.

Kristopher Negron, a utility player who is under club control through 2022 but out of minor league options, got his first look Sunday playing third base. We saw Daniel Vogelbach, who is still recovering from a hamstring strain, pinch hit on Friday. Shawn Armstrong is getting a good look out of the bullpen, as well.

While there are currently an extra 10 players on the major league roster and a couple more still to come now that the Double-A Arkansas Travelers season has come to an end, the players who have spent the majority of the year on the big league roster will continue to be the focus. Strong finishes are important for younger players like Marco Gonzales, who should have the opportunity to make at least three more starts, and Ryon Healy, who has hit .276/.315/.715 since Aug. 1.

A huge question that will need to be answered once the season ends is where Robinson Canó will play next year. Does Dee Gordon go back to center field? Will Canó continue to get starts at first base? Have those questions already been answered or will the next three weeks give us more of an idea of what we could see in 2019?

None of the above is the focus this team had hoped to have at this time of the year, but it is where they are at now.

“We’ll keep fighting, it’s what this crew does,” Servais said. “You will see guys getting days off here, giving some of these other guys a chance to play and keep everybody fresh. Hopefully it works to our advantage.”

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