Mariners Notebook: Excitement around Trammell, plan for Haniger in 2021
After going through a shortened 60-game season in 2020 with no fans in the stands, the Mariners are ready to face the San Francisco Giants on opening day at T-Mobile Park with a few thousand Seattle fans in attendance on Thursday night.
Mariners manager Scott Servais, who joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy as well as Mariners insider Shannon Drayer ahead of the game, made it clear that he and his club are excited to get going after battling through a tough 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Certainly going through what we did last year and now getting to have fans in the stands, our guys are really fired up,” Servais said. “… There’s a lot of excitement and I’m anticipating a big night for all of our guys.”
The player with maybe the most excitement and anticipation around him is outfielder Taylor Trammell, who is making his MLB debut after earning a roster spot with a fantastic spring training. With 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis starting the season on the injured list, Trammell will get the start in center field while hitting fifth in Seattle’s lineup.
Servais said this is an an exciting time for younger players like Trammell, and that while the center fielder and others may have “big eyes” as they enter the spotlight, that’s a good thing.
“It’s something these players have dreamed about their whole lives, worked their tails off to get here and now they get to enjoy it,” Servais said. “And I’m looking forward to our young center fielder getting out there tonight. Taylor Trammell is very excited and it will be a big night for a lot of our guys, obviously.”
Trammell entered spring training not quite as an afterthought, but he wasn’t seen as someone who would be fighting for an MLB roster spot. That changed with Trammell standing out among all Mariners players by hitting for average and power while playing great defense. Servais described what he looks for in young players in camp and how Trammell answered the call.
“I think you’re looking at how players handle themselves through the course of their at-bats, what they do defensively, how they run the bases,” he said. “What is their game awareness? What kind of baseball IQ do they have? … The thing that stood out to me early on with Taylor is he has a ton of confidence and he carries himself like he belongs.”
Servais said some younger players need more time to get comfortable in a big league setting, but he never saw that from Trammell.
“I really like how he’s wired, understanding that he’s young, he needs experience, but that’s what we’ve got,” he said. “He’s going to get an opportunity here… and I hope he takes it and runs with it.”
Trammell isn’t the only Mariners outfielder who will be under the microscope on opening day, as 2018 All-Star right fielder Mitch Haniger returns to action for the first time since June 2019 after major injuries and surgeries put him out of action.
Haniger will hit leadoff for the Mariners, and Servais made it no secret how much he’s looking forward to Haniger playing meaningful baseball yet again.
“I’m super excited to see Mitch Haniger out there,” he said. “It’s been a while and he’s a tremendous player, and he’s one of those veteran guys where he has taken on a leadership role.”
Servais called Haniger 100% healthy after three 2020 surgeries but noted that the Mariners were cautious with him in spring training and will continue to be that way going forward.
“He is 100% ready to go. I say all that (but) you will not see Mitch play 160 games this year. It’s just not going to happen,” Servais said. “We are going to monitor his workload and the volume and that will probably be taken week to week … He will have some scheduled days off and you’ll probably see that more early in the season just to make sure he’s in a good spot because the goal is to get him through a 162-game season.”
• Servais doesn’t have a fancy mantra or catchphrase for his players during the 2021 season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear message for his team to follow.
“It doesn’t matter, just get better,” Servais said. ” … We’ve taken that to a little bit different level this year where we talk about get 1% better … If each guy takes that attitude, we’ll look up at the end of the year and we’ll have a pretty successful season.”
• Someone else to keep a close eye on out of the gate is first baseman Evan White, who had a tough 2020 campaign at the plate as a rookie, striking out over 40% of the time and hitting just .176 on the year.
Servais thinks his young first baseman is ready to take a step forward. He was very impressed with how White went about his business during spring training and even last year even when things weren’t going his way.
“He struggled at moments at the plate, but I think the thing he learned is his ability to control his emotions and really have a clear picture of the mental side of things going into each ballgame and not letting it go too fast and get away from him,” Servais said. “He’s shown a lot of positive strides in spring training, and nothing more than his ability to take ownership in his own career … He swung the bat as good as anybody on our club the last couple weeks of spring training, so hopefully he gets off to a quick start. That would really help his confidence and we’re going to need him throughout the year.”
• Left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales gets the opening day nod for the third season in a row. During his pre-game press conference, Servais said that Gonzales is “built up” and that he likely will throw between 90 and 100 pitches depending on how his start goes.
Jake & Stacy