What stands out to Scott Servais as Mariners spring training opens

Mar 12, 2022, 7:52 PM
Mariners Servais Kyle Lewis...
Mariners manager Scott Servais shakes hands with oufielder Kyle Lewis after a 2019 game. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

If the MLB lockout felt long to you, just imagine what it was like for Mariners manager Scott Servais.

Servais: Robbie Ray’s first spring bullpen stopped Mariners camp

Servais couldn’t have any contact with his players for the three-plus months of the lockout – not even to congratulate them for life events like getting married.

So what happened once the lockout ended on Thursday?

“I think the first guy I talked to (Thursday) on the phone was Marco Gonzales,” Servais told Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Friday, “and I just said to him, ‘Dude, it is so good to hear your voice.’ It was a long time.”

The good news is it didn’t take long for Servais to see most of his Mariners players as many reported Friday to spring training in Peoria, Ariz., where Servais has been for weeks observing Seattle’s minor league camp. Servais shared a lot about what he saw Friday and other insights about the Mariners during his 20-minute conversation with Dave Wyman and Bob Stelton (listen here or in the player below).

Here’s a look at what Servais said was standing out to him on Friday.

Momentum regained

The Mariners had a lot going for them after their 90-win season last year, and they kept moving in the right direction with the trade for All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier and signing of 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. The lockout did them no favors, however, by halting the offseason, shortening spring training and pushing back both spring training and the regular season.

“Really one of the things I was probably most frustrated about (was) the fact that we had a little delay in getting going,” Servais said. “You just felt we had so much momentum going through the end of last year and then we continue early in the offseason with the addition of Robbie Ray and getting Adam Frazier on our team. You want to keep it rolling in and it came to a halt and then we were late getting going.”

Servais felt a lot better after Friday’s initial workouts.

“From what I saw today, a few of our guys got on the mound (and) it looked pretty (darn) good, I gotta tell you. We look really good. I’m excited,” he said. “I was a little concerned but after seeing the guys today, seeing where they’re at, where their mindset is at, the momentum is going. And it’s nice to have some continuity.”

What Servais meant by continuity was how Seattle has moved on from the rebuilding stage and is now returning a core of young players with some experience playing together on a winning ball club.

“You know, we’ve had some turnover here in previous years. The core of our group is back. (Mitch) Haniger’s out there today, J.P. (Crawford) is out running around, Ty France looks great. There’s (Jarred) Kelenic, (Chris) Flexen. Seeing those guys in uni today and seeing how excited they are to get going, I felt really good about where our momentum is at.”

Jarred Kelenic’s progress

The Mariners certainly have high hopes for Kelenic in his second MLB season, and to Servais’ eye, he’s already seeing a more comfortable version of the 22-year-old outfielder.

“If I think about where he was a year ago – all the expectations, the hype, everything else that was going on around him and our team… he’s very relaxed, much different than last spring. He knows that, OK, he’s going to be part of the club going forward for a long time, and he looks great.”

Kelenic finished 2021 with a rough .181/.265/.350 slash line, but he had 14 home runs in 93 games and ended the season with a strong final four-week stretch. That combined with starting pitcher Logan Gilbert’s promising rookie season signal a bright future for Seattle.

“I think it was a critical for him to finish the season on a high note like he did,” Servais said of Kelenic. “We saw the strides that Logan Gilbert made throughout the year, and that’s what’s exciting. We had a very young roster last year, and young players, they get better. That’ll be the focus for us this year, is continue to give them opportunities so they can grow, and grow into the players that we know they can be on a consistent basis.”

Kyle Lewis’ return

Though Servais couldn’t talk to Kyle Lewis during the lockout and the 26-year-old outfielder wasn’t at camp yet Friday, the Mariners were able to get updates about his recovery from the knee surgery that ended his 2021 season. M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto said earlier Friday that they were able to receive reports from Lewis’ personal rehab trainer, and the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year appears to be in a great spot going into 2022.

“All the reports we’ve got on K-Lew have been really positive,” Servais said. ” … He’s moving great, he’s feeling really good, he’s had no setbacks.”

The Mariners won’t be in a hurry with Lewis, who has had multiple knee surgeries in his career that have resulted in his long-term viability in center field coming into question.

“We’ll sit down and talk with him when he gets into camp. He might be one of the guys we don’t push too hard too early to kind of let him get his legs under him as we get going into spring training and see where it leads,” Servais said. “I wouldn’t rule out at all the fact that he gets back into center field but I want to sit down and talk with him and get our arms around exactly where he’s at. We just don’t want to go too quick, too fast with him. But again, this guy was Rookie of the Year a couple years ago. We know what he can do and what he could mean to our offense.”

Mariners’ kids on the farm

Servais kept himself busy in recent weeks by keeping an eye on the Mariners’ minor league spring training, and while he wasn’t serving in an on-hands role, his experience working in player development between his playing and managing careers kicked in.

“One of the things I’ve been able to do the last three weeks I’ve been down here is, from a distance, kind of get a chance to see a lot of our young players, and it’s been exciting,” he said. “I really haven’t been hands-on with guys but (have been) getting a chance to see them work out, see how they move, see how they go through the drills and how they’re growing.”

So who caught his eye?

“When I talk about a guy like Noelvi Marte, this guy’s a stud. He’s 20 years old, he’s got a chance to stay at shortstop, it’s a big time power bat. Really fun player to watch. And then you know the pitching depth that we have at the minor leagues, some of the names you’ll hear us talk about in George Kirby, Brandon Williamson, Levi Stout, Emerson Hancock – I mean we are very, very talented on the minor league side. So as these waves continue to come to Seattle, there’s more behind it and you know, the future of the Mariners organization, we’re in a really good spot.”

More Mariners coverage from SeattleSports.com

Drayer: All eyes now on Mariners OF — and Julio Rodríguez’s role in it
Jerry Dipoto Show: Mariners’ post-lockout priorities, pitching plans
Drayer: Baseball is back, so what’s on tap for the Mariners?
Mariners Questions in ’22: Who are the biggest wild card bats?

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