Mariners Notebook: Alternate sites back in play with minor league delays
With news about the minor league season being delayed breaking Tuesday night, it was a major topic of conversation for the Mariners and MLB Wednesday morning.
In truth, the news likely wasn’t much of a surprise for those who have been following as the original minor leagues start date was given as “subject to change,” and conversations with those in the game seemed to point to a later start almost from the get go.
A main issue: travel.
Unlike the major league teams, the minor leaguers do not travel on chartered flights, and that is exposure MLB, which recently assumed the running of the minor leagues, is not willing to take on. Instead, they will revert to the usage of alternate sites to start the season. While the alternate sites in 2020 fulfilled the need of safely providing a pool of players for the big league teams to draw from, in terms of development, they fell far short of what players would get in regularly scheduled games.
“It’s certainly not the same playing every day and I do understand why,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “When you start traveling Triple-A teams around, we are just trying to be pre-cautious here. The virus is still out there, it’s still active.”
With the recent news of a greater number of vaccines becoming available and the possibility they could be available to all adults by the end of May, the hope is the delay will lead to a greater impact for the game.
“I’m really excited that the number of people that are getting vaccinated is happening around our country and hopefully we will get to the point where we have access here, which I think we will,” said Servais.
Until then, those particularly in the upper minors will be left in limbo. It is not known yet how many players will be permitted at the alternate site, which for the Mariners again will be housed in Tacoma. When big league camp ends, some who do not make the 26-man roster could head to Tacoma while others could stay in Arizona as minor league camp begins.
“We have to do the right thing. I understand why, but it’s not ideal,” said Servais. “We are not to that point yet, we are still working our way through this thing. The big thing is we keep the major league season on track, keep it going, but also understand how important it is for our young players to keep their development going. We’ll be OK. We will survive, we will be just fine with it.”
Of course all eyes will be on how this impacts those prospects closest to the major leagues. One of those players of note is in the Mariners’ lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Cubs.
Dylan Moore, 2B
Kyle Lewis, CF
Ty France, 3B
José Marmolejos, 1B
Cal Raleigh, C
Jarred Kelenic, DH
Jake Fraley, RF
Taylor Trammell, LF
Donovan Walton, SS
Ljay Newsome, SP
Not a lot of road grays in veterans’ lockers this morning as the Mariners embark on their longest road trip of the spring to face the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. Still, a great opportunity to see some of the young ones as we get our first look at Ty France at third base, Cal Raleigh behind the plate and, of course, Jarred Kelenic at DH.
Two players who caught my eye in Tuesday’s game are in the lineup as well, with Taylor Trammell in left (it was interesting to see him for the first time in person, he’s much bigger than I thought), and Donovan Walton, who won the minor league Gold Glove at shortstop in 2019 and made a tremendous play on the last out of the game.
Wednesday’s game will be the first chance to watch the M’s live this spring as it airs at noon on ESPN. The radio broadcast will be at 7 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle.
• James Paxton, who was originally scheduled to start against the Cubs, will throw a sim game/live BP session instead at the Mariners’ complex in Peoria. According to Servais, this was actually at Paxton’s request as he wanted to work on his secondary pitches.
• Updated probables:
Thursday vs Rockies: Justus Sheffied
Friday at White Sox: Chris Flexen
Saturday vs A’s: Justin Dunn/Nick Margevicius
Sunday at Angels: Logan Gilbert
Note: Gilbert is tentatively scheduled to start Sunday.