Mariners Notebook: Servais reacts to Minor League Baseball rule changes
Friday night in Peoria the Mariners and Reds are scheduled to play a spring game of the rare 9-inning variety. With no minor league side to draw from for extra players this spring, teams have been given the option of shortening games and innings where necessary.
With spring training games being about the work and not the records, it will be interesting to see if these rules are carried forward when things become “normal” once more. It could be one of many potential changes on the near horizon for the game as several new rules, including one that would limit the shift and others that could encourage base stealing, will be tested in the minor leagues this season according to an email from MLB.
Mariners manager Scott Servais, who was on a call earlier this spring with a small number of managers MLB looked to get input from, welcomes many of the changes.
“Almost all of the changes they have talked about I’m in favor of,” he said noting that originally there were about a dozen that were reviewed. “I think we need to adjust our game. I think we need to make changes to our game. We are entertainment and we have to be open to change.”
Servais pointed to the need for more action in the game as impetus for change.
“Change is uncomfortable, but that ‘s what they have done in other sports to try and keep the fans engaged,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great athletes out there but we need to see the ball in play. We need to see great defensive plays. We need to see guys steal bases or leg out a triple which has kind of gone away from the game as it has become as its turned into a home run, strikeout or walk.”
One thing Servais is not sure he wants to see is regulation of the shift.
“I think you should leave it up to the teams how they want to position their players and I think there are other ways to affect the game without doing the shifting,” he said.
A little further down the line but still a hot topic when it comes to change are the the automated strike zone. As a former catcher, Servais has big concerns about where “robo umps” could take the game.
“My personal opinion, I was not a big fan of it,” he said. “I understand why it could get there. Certainly the technology has to be really tight because it will change the game dramatically and how we evaluate and look at the catcher position over time.”
While change can be tough in a game rooted in tradition, baseball must have an audience and for the sport to survive. Servais noted that other sports have made changes successfully, the 3-point line and shot clock in the NBA, rules keeping defensive backs off the receivers in the NFL.
“They are trying to create more excitement and more action in the game,” said Servais. “Trying to do some of these things at the minor league level is a good thing. You need to be open to almost everything if it has a good reason for doing it behind it. My reason for looking at those things would be to keep it more engaging for our fan base. I think we need to be open to a lot of things.”
• Getting both catchers in the lineup is not necessarily a function of having extras in spring training. From time to time last year, Servais DH’d the second catcher and said with both being right-handed, he could do so again this season.
“It’s something in the past I have been reluctant to do, I guess I am willing to roll the dice,” he said. “It’s a worst nightmare to lose your catcher and then have to give up your DH. Knock on wood it will never happen, if it does on the fly it will give maybe Marco or Graveman or someone a chance to get an at bat. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but I’m not afraid to put both catchers in the lineup.”
• Roenis Elías, who came out of Thursday’s game with arm soreness after retiring his first batter, was scheduled to get an MRI on the arm Friday afternoon.
• The MLB and MLBPA jointly announced the latest COVID test results. Of the 14,704 tests conducted throughout baseball there were 2 new positive tests (2 players); a 0.01% positive rate. Since the start of spring training, 43,928 tests conducted, with 12 total positive tests (9 players, 3 staff members); a 0.03% positive rate.