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Mariners Hot Stove Show: Interviews with Jerry Dipoto, Evan White highlight 2021 premiere

Mariners 1B Evan White is getting ready for the season with teammates in Arizona. (Getty)

The Mariners Hot Stove Show returned to the airways of 710 ESPN Seattle on Tuesday night, bringing two hours of baseball talk featuring interviews with general manager Jerry Dipoto, first baseman Evan White, infield coach Perry Hill and newly retired beat writer Greg Johns.

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What better way to start the first show of the season than with a one-hour visit from the GM, who sat down with Rick Rizzs and Gary Hill to talk all things Mariners – once he got the obvious out of the way.

“It’s been a decidedly warm stove,” Dipoto said, acknowledging the general lack of player movement in baseball so far this winter.

Despite the lack of activity, preparations continue for spring training and the start of the 2021 season, which will represent year three of the Mariners’ rebuild. With year two limited to just 60 games, Gary Hill asked if the lack of opportunity to get young players experience would affect Seattle’s big picture plan in terms of a competitive window.

“While we believed at the beginning of this that 2021 would be the year where we could really step into that contending window, we are going to be a little more conservative in how we view that,” said Dipoto. “We still think that we are improving, we do think that we have a chance to be on that back end of contention for a postseason, a shot at one of those wild card spots if things break in the right way for us, but we want this season to be about the continued development of the young players. And perhaps by the midpoint of this season, before we get to the trade deadline, we can see that big step that leads us into a really exciting stage of Mariners baseball.”

In addition to addressing the big picture for the Mariners, Dipoto laid out what he was looking to add to the team before spring training and when he thought we would start to see more movement on the free agent front. He also gave his thoughts on and plans for a number of current and new Mariners including Kyle Lewis, Dylan Moore, Ty France, Andrés Muñoz, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen.

Audio from Hour 1 can be heard at this link or below.

Hour two kicked off with a visit from Gold Glove first baseman Evan White, who called in from his home in the Arizona. There was plenty of glove talk such as where he plans on keeping the award and why we might see him with a black Rawlings in 2021. He also talked a little bit about the significance of the award for him and gave credit to his entire family for helping him out early with his defense.

On the offensive side of things, White admitted that there were a lot of adjustments to be made in his first season in the big leagues. The biggest adjustment? Facing pitchers who can throw any pitch in any count. To help tackle this, White has gone to work on both the physical and mental sides of his game this winter.

“You hear mental skills and how important it is, but how do I actually do it?” he said. “That’s something (Mariners director of player development Andy McKay) and I have been working on this offseason, the biggest part of my game I’m really excited to take a step forward with. I think that was the biggest thing, have confidence and trust in yourself. You sit there, question yourself, then you are going to be late to start and now it’s going to look like you are yanking off everything and swinging too hard which I know I definitely did this year. Mentally I was trying to stay easy and stay in the middle of the field but I had those little subconscious thoughts – ‘What if he throws this?’ – that kind of got in my way.”

White has been working out in Peoria with fellow Gold Glove winner J.P. Crawford as well as Sam Haggerty getting ready for the season, knowing he will continue to be a part of the Mariners’ long-term plans.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “There’s guys and guys coming. We want to get to the playoffs obviously, but also we want to win it. We don’t want to just go there and be satisfied. That’s the mentality and I think a lot of guys have it, even guys who aren’t here yet. We want to do something special, do something that hasn’t been done here before and I think that rubs off on other guys. It’s pretty cool to be a part of and we’re going to work our butts off until we make that a reality.”

White’s infield coach, Perry Hill, was up next on the show. While much credit is given to him for both White and Crawford’s Gold Gloves, Hill went out of the way to point out that from the clubhouse staff to the trainers to the analysts in the front office, there was a whole team of support for these players.

“There’s a lot of fingerprints on those two Gold Gloves,” he said. “Those two guys get the hardware and rightfully so, but there are a lot of fingerprints on those awards.”

The fact that Hill has added two more Gold Glove players to his résumé is little surprise as he came to Seattle with the reputation of being one of the best infield coaches in the game. He credits the Mariners with making him a better coach, introducing him to the analytical side of the game.

“There’s no doubt before I came here I was a dinosaur and I had a fixed mindset,” he said. “Since the time I arrived in Seattle I’ve got a growth mindset. I’m open to a lot of new ideas. (Mariners director of analytics Jesse Smith) has been a huge help to me in evaluating players in what they can do, what they can’t do. I used him a lot in our evaluation of our players and of course they put together a good positioning program for us, and (Mariners third base coach Manny Acta) does that as the game unfolds. To me it’s really opened up my eyes. I really wasn’t one of those guys before I got here. I’m one of those guys now.”

In the conversation with Rick and Gary, Hill talked about his coaching philosophies, those who influenced his coaching, the best infielders he has seen and gave a little look at the players he is currently working with.

Newly-retired Mariners.com beat writer Greg Johns followed Hill on the show and shared incredible memories from his 41-year career. Johns was with the Mariners when they traveled to New York for the playoff series against the Yankees after 9/11. He was one of two writers with Ken Griffey Jr. at his house when he received the call from the Hall of Fame. He counts meeting Muhammad Ali in the Mariners clubhouse as one of his favorite memories covering the team and tells a funny story of another incredible (in a very different way) encounter in a clubhouse with Miguel Olivo.

Good stories from a great beat writer to wrap up the first Hot Stove Show of 2021, which can be heard each Tuesday leading up to spring training from 7-9 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Listen to the second hour of the show at this link or below.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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