Servais: Mariners ‘believe in’ 6-man rotation, lineup needs to make quicker adjustments
Just a few weeks after losing a key member of the starting rotation, the Mariners have lost another starter after his most recent start.
During Seattle’s fifth game of the season, lefty James Paxton left the game with an injured arm and he’s out for the season after undergoing season-ending surgery. His replacement in the rotation, Nick Margevicius, recorded just one out in Sunday’s loss to the Boston Red Sox and he was placed on the 10-day injured list with shoulder inflammation.
The Mariners have Ljay Newsome as the lead option to take Margevicius’ role in the six-man rotation, but as most teams in MLB use a five-man rotation, that’s led to some thoughts that Seattle could keep Newsome in the bullpen and roll with five starters.
According to manager Scott Servais, that won’t happen and Seattle will stick with the six-man rotation going forward. He explained why to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy as well as Mariners insider Shannon Drayer during The Scott Servais Show.
“I think as we talked about early on, when we committed to it early in the offseason and through spring training is the positives far outweigh the negatives,” Servais said of using six starting pitchers in the rotation. “… Keep in mind that we came off a short season last year. This is a marathon. I think everyone gets excited (but we’ve only played 23) games. We have a lot of baseball ahead of us. It’s so vitally important to keep your pitching healthy.”
As Servais noted, the Mariners played only 60 games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, only two starters — Marco Gonzales and Justus Sheffield — threw more than 50 innings. Yusei Kikuchi, Justin Dunn and Margevicius all threw over 40.
With MLB going from 60 games to a full 162-game schedule between 2020 and 2021, Servais and the Mariners think there are far more benefits than negatives with employing six starting pitchers this season.
“We really think the health benefit of giving the guys the extra day (between starts) along with the developmental benefits of some of these guys (is important),” Servais said. “Justus Sheffield didn’t have the slider (on Monday) … but because he gets an extra day on the mound in between starts, he’s got a chance to work on that a little more aggressively than he ever would if he was in a five-man rotation. That’s very valuable for young pitchers along with some extra rest time if certain guys need it.”
Put simply, the six-man rotation is here to stay for the Mariners in 2021.
“We’re going to stick with it, we believe in it, it’s definitely where we think we need to go here,” Servais said. ” … I think it’s the right way to go, especially where we are in our growth and our development of our organization.”
That being said, we may see some shuffling with the rotation depending on the schedule.
“It doesn’t mean there won’t be some times through the year where we have extra off days and it lines up where we can get Marco back in there to pitch on a normal five-day turn so to speak,” Servais said. “That will happen over the course of the season.”
The Mariners have a potent 1-4 in the lineup with right fielder Mitch Haniger, infielder/designated hitter Ty France, third baseman Kyle Seager and center fielder Kyle Lewis, but the rest of the lineup has struggled out of the gate.
Haniger, France and Seager, along with shortstop J.P. Crawford, are the only four starters hitting over .200 so far. Lewis is 3-19 in five games this year after starting the season on the injured list with a knee injury.
But the rest of the regular starting lineup is hitting in the .100s and striking out a good deal.
“Things will come together, there’s no question about that,” Servais said of the bottom half of his lineup. “I don’t have any concerns there.”
While Servais may not have concerns, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t see areas where the lineup needs to improve.
“I think what we’re seeing is as the games go on … I think our ability to make adjustments quicker needs to happen,” he said. “Certainly the guys at the bottom of our lineup for the most part are more inexperienced players while the guys at the top who are driving the train now, those guys have more experience. We’ve got to make quicker adjustments in-game. That’s what’s kind of sticking out for me.”
And when that bottom half gets going and has more production, Servais thinks the runs will really start flowing. Currently, the Mariners are 15th in MLB in runs per game at 4.3, per Baseball Reference.
“I like our offense. Once we start getting production from the lineup, you see it,” he said. “On the nights we’ve got guys (on the bases) and we’ve got traffic … all of a sudden we flow and it’s an easy six- or seven-run game for us. But on certain nights where we’re struggling at the bottom, it becomes more of a challenge.”
Listen to the full Scott Servais Show at this link or in the player below.