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Scott Servais Show: What Mariners manager said about James Paxton, Mitch Haniger and more

James Paxton faces the White Sox in his first start for the Mariners in 2021. (Getty)

For the first time since 2018, Mariners manager Scott Servais gets to write down James Paxton as his starting pitcher on Tuesday night.

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Ahead of that start, Servais joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy as well as Mariners insider Shannon Drayer for the first-ever episode of The Scott Servais Show (listen here), which will air at 1 p.m. each Tuesday during the M’s season. Servais was understandably looking forward to Tuesday’s game, which features Paxton as half of one of the better pitching matchups we’ll see across baseball this month as the White Sox will counter with Cy Young Award candidate Lucas Giolito.

“I was ecstatic that we signed him … really happy he decided to come back with us,” Servais said about Paxton. “Getting him around our players, certainly our younger players in spring training, was really nice to see … being able to share a lot of his experiences with our young players has been awesome.”

Seattle traded Paxton to the New York Yankees ahead of 2019 for three prospects, but Paxton re-signed with the Mariners on a one-year deal during the offseason, bringing the British Columbia native back to the Pacific Northwest.

Paxton only pitched twice in live spring training games against opposing teams twice last month, but it’s safe to say Servais liked what he saw. In those two outings, Paxton threw a combined 8 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and four walks while striking out 17. For better context, Paxton got 25 outs total, so 68% of his outs came via the strikeout.

“The last couple times out in spring training when he got to throw in the ‘A’ games was great to see as well,” Servais said. “It looks like he’s on top of his game.”

While it will certainly be a welcome sight to see Paxton back in a Mariners uniform and on the mound at T-Mobile Park, Servais admitted that Paxton, who has history of injury throughout his MLB career, will likely be brought along slowly to start the season.

“The big thing for us this year with Paxton is we want to make sure we can keep him healthy,” Servais said. “That will be key for him and for us as we go on.  We will be a little more guarded with him early in the season and will build him up, but I’m excited to have him out there tonight.”

Promise in the bullpen

The Mariners’ bullpen has been a weakness the last two seasons, but Servais told Drayer, Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost that the group can be a good one this season. He pointed to four players in particular, starting with the man who recorded a save on Saturday.

“Bringing in Rafael Montero from the Rangers is a big plus,” Servais said. “He’ll be our closer here as we get going.”

Another new addition that Servais is a big fan of?

“I think Keynan Middleton as he gets going (will play a big role),” he said. “This is a guy pitching high-leverage innings for the Angels a few years ago before he went down with Tommy John surgery.”

The two other players Servais highlighted were on the roster last season. For starters, well, a former MLB starter who figures to pitch high-leverage innings for Seattle in 2021.

“I’m really excited about what Kendall Graveman has shown,” Servais said. “We all love Gravey and his demeanor and his attitude and the leadership he brings our clubhouse, but he threw the ball just awesome the other night.”

Graveman struck out five batters in two innings, showcasing a mid- to upper-90s fastball along with a tight slider, which he used to record all five punchouts.

Those three pitchers mentioned above are all right-handed, but a lefty who Servais trusts a great deal is 2020 rookie Anthony Misiewicz.

“Mis had a great year last year. He’s one of the more reliable guys down there,” Servais said. “He’s really good at what he does and he doesn’t deviate from it, which is really important. You know what you’re going to get every time he goes out there.”

Rookie expectations

Rookie outfielder Taylor Trammell debuted on opening day and started all three of Seattle’s games against the San Francisco Giants in center field before getting Monday off against Chicago. The youngster has shined defensively, recorded some key walks and had an RBI double for his first MLB hit, but that’s his lone hit in 10 at-bats so far and has struck out six times.

Servais is optimistic about Trammell going forward after the slow start at the plate.

I think he will continue to learn here as we move along (about) how different teams are going to pitch him and some of the adjustments he has to make,” Servais said. “He’s an exciting young player. He’s certainly played well in the outfield for us, he can track balls out there, he runs really well, there’s power in the bat. But there was always going to be an adjustment (period), a learning curve for him as he moves along.”

Mitch’s Mariners return

One of the players that Trammell played alongside last weekend is 2018 All-Star right fielder Mitch Haniger, who is back in action after missing all of 2020 and most of 2019 with various injuries and surgeries. Now fully healthy, Haniger has been Seattle’s best hitter to start so far, hitting leadoff in each of the Mariners’ first four games.

Servais is thrilled to be able to put Haniger’s name in the lineup once again.

“It’s probably been the highlight for me so far early in the season, to see how well he’s been playing and how he’s moving around the field,” Servais said “We saw it in spring training, but you never quite know once the regular season starts, so I’m really excited for him.”

In addition to his play at the plate and in the field, Haniger is a leader in the clubhouse and someone young players look up to, Servais said.

“Hanny is kind of the epitome of what you want to be as a pro ballplayer,” he said. “His preparation, how he goes about (his business), everything he does has a purpose, and our young players see that. Mitch is not a big yeller, screamer or talker in the clubhouse, but when he talks, people listen. And certainly the young players are listening because they see how he goes about his game, they see the results he’s getting and that’s what they want. They want to be that type of player.”

You can listen to the full Scott Servais Show in the player below or in the podcast at this link.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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