Mariners notebook: Scott Servais on bullpen additions, injury updates
Managers across baseball this week, including the Mariners’ Scott Servais, have been holding the individual media sessions that are normally scheduled to take place at the Winter Meetings.
Like with the meetings, the sessions have been held virtually on video calls, but it’s nonetheless welcome baseball talk as we head toward the end of the year. In the case of the Mariners, the timing was good Wednesday for Servais, who had a couple of new pitchers to talk about: relievers Keynan Middleton and Rafael Montero.
“Really excited about the addition of both those guys,” said Servais. “Montero, we like his stuff, what he brings to the mix, he’s got a little experience as well. That’s a great mix. I have history with Keynan Middleton, knowing him a little bit how he’s wired. I think it is a really good opportunity for people to join the bullpen and take on significant roles if they throw the ball well.”
Both pitchers represent possible back of the bullpen options for Servais, who said that if the season were to start today, Montero (who was 8 for 8 in save opportunities for Texas in 2020) would most likely be closing games for the Mariners. On Dec. 16, however, Servais doesn’t believe we have seen the last acquisition of general manager Jerry Dipoto’s offseason.
“I’m fired up and I hope we keep adding to the pitching,” he said. “I know Jerry and the guys in the front office are working diligently to tighten that up for us.”
The Mariners intend to go with a six-man rotation again in 2021, and while names could be penciled in to all spots, Servais would be more comfortable with additional depth. What that depth looks like remains to be seen. Is it a bigger dollar deal like the signing of a veteran free agent? Or perhaps a chance taken on a bounce-back candidate or minor league signing?
“You haven’t seen a lot of those signings yet but I know clubs are looking at their options,” said Servais. “I do know that we feel very strongly that the key to next season will be depth. We are going to have a lot of pitchers going through the uncharted waters in the fact that they did not pitch much bulk in the number of innings in 2020 and now you have to get through supposedly a full season in ‘21. It will be really important you have guys to go to in the event of injury or poor performance at some point and you are going to have to make some moves. We’re not done. We’ve got a couple of months before spring training and I would expect we will continue to add to our pitching.”
Servais covered a lot on Wednesday, and I’ll detail a few more topics in the coming days here on 710Sports.com. For now, here are some additional pieces of news from his media session.
• Outfielder Mitch Haniger, who has been recovering and rehabbing from two February surgeries, and catcher Tom Murphy, who missed the season with a broken bone in his foot, are expected to be ready for spring training. Murphy will be a full go but new dad Haniger will be reined in a bit.
“We’re just trying to take it slow with him,” said Servais. “You know Mitch, he wants to get after it, get going. He’s in a good spot mentally and physically and with the addition to his family, he’s got a lot to be happy about.”
• If active rosters go back to 26 players, expect an eight-man bullpen.
“It makes it a little more challenging with the six-man rotation,” said Servais. “You are going to have to have guys in that bullpen that can throw multiple innings and be very resilient and able to bounce back.”
• He won’t be ready for spring training, but the Seattle ‘pen could get a big midseason boost as Andrés Muñoz, who was acquired in the Austin Nola trade with San Diego, should return from Tommy John surgery.
“This guy is special,” said Servais. “He’s already getting on the mound. I think he gets into the mix probably in June. It’s a really elite arm and he’s done it in the big leagues already.”
• Infield coach Perry Hill and hitting coach Tim Laker, who both coached remotely in 2020 as a preventative measure due to coronavirus concerns, are expected back in person with the team in 2021.
• Like other managers have asserted in their sessions earlier this week, Servais believes spring training will begin some time in February with a more certain picture of the situation coming in early January. Asked by a member of the national media if he would take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available, he answered that he probably would when the time was right.
“I don’t think it is right to jump the line, I don’t think any of us should do that,” he said. “There are other people who need it first based on the job that they do. So be very respectful of that. Certainly the healthcare workers around our country need to get it first, there’s no question about that. Senior citizens, people who are very high risk need to get it first. Major League Baseball is probably down the list a little bit. We will wait for our time, hopefully sooner rather than later it will be available. We will just have to wait and see.”
Servais said that as far as his players are concerned, when it comes to taking the vaccine he views that as a personal decision and that ultimately MLB and the Players Association will come up with a plan that works for everyone.
More from Shannon: With new moves, M’s bullpen is now under construction