Acting Mariners manager Negrón talks hot hitters, coaching ex-teammates

Apr 26, 2022, 1:12 PM | Updated: 1:31 pm
Mariners Kristopher Negron...
Jesse Winker of the Seattle Mariners is greeted by interim manager Kristopher Negron after his RBI single to score Adam Frazier to beat the Kansas City Royals 5-4. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners have won four of their last five games, which is notable not just because it’s been a good recent stretch of baseball, but because the team has played so well without their manager.

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Scott Servais, who finished second in American League Manager of the Year voting in 2021, has missed Seattle’s last five games due to COVID-19, as has third base coach Manny Acta, a former MLB manager.

With those two out, managerial duties have fallen to Kristopher Negrón, the Mariners’ first base coach who was the manager of Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate last season.

Not only has Negrón taken over Servais’ managerial title these last few days, he’s also taken over his conversations with the media. That was true Tuesday afternoon when Negrón joined Jake and Stacy on Seattle Sports 710 AM for what typically is The Scott Servais Show.

“It was exciting,” Negrón said of his first five games as acting Mariners manager. “We had a little bit of everything throughout those games … I learned a ton. We’re surrounded by such great people and great staff and I’ve definitely been able to lean on them for help throughout the games(and) pre- and postgame. It definitely helps out a ton.”

What makes Negrón’s first taste of MLB managing experience even more interesting is that he’s a younger guy at just 36 years old. Not only is Negrón a younger guy, but he’s actually played with and against a number of players on Seattle’s roster.

“They’ve all been giving me a hard time, especially because I’ve played with J.P. (Crawford), played with Marco (Gonzales), (Dylan Moore) and played against Ty France, (Eugenio) Suárez I played with,” Negrón said. “But no,  it’s been all lighthearted. It’s been a lot of fun. They get a kick out of calling me ‘skip,’ and saluting me everywhere calling me ‘the boss.'”

“I couldn’t imagine doing this with with a more fun group,” he later added. “Again, I was able to play with some of these guys and we’ve shared the field. I’ve turned double plays with J.P. and stuff like that. So it’s definitely a different type of dynamic.”

That “fun group” is also a close group, Negrón said.

“I think we really set the tone of spring training of just gelling together,” he said. “We’re all talking the same way, and just the camaraderie that we have, the gel that we’ve created throughout spring training, (it’s)  just carried over in-season. It’s a really close group. They get together off the field, getting dinners  and kind of just spending time with each other. And I think that’s great. I think whenever you can have that type of connection with your teammates and with your staff, you’re destined to do big things.”

Regardless of whether it’s Servais or Negrón running the team, rookie Julio Rodriguez has had some tough luck on called third strikes on pitches out of the strike zone. What has Negrón seen or heard as that’s happened?

“There have been a few choice words said from the dugout, but it’s different type of situation,” Negrón said. “I can’t just run out there and (argue) and do all that … There have been some things that have come up but we’ve just got to stay calm, stay cool and let the game play out.”

France and Crawford

The Mariners are off to a stellar start not just with their 10-6 record, but with their lineup. That’s thanks in large part to the play of shortstop J.P. Crawford and first baseman Ty France, who was named American League Co-Player of the Week for his red-hot week last week.

What has Negrón seen from those two?

They’ve done a great job of just staying within themselves not trying to do too much,” he said. “There have been big spots in the game where they put together at-bats and draw a walk or take the single to the right side. They’ve just been doing a great job staying within themselves and swinging at the right pitches. And when the pitchers make a mistake, they put a good swing on it … They’ve done a great job of getting on base and swinging at the pitches that they should be swinging at.”

Mariners Reaction: Bob Stelton on France, Crawford and 1st-place M’s

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Acting Mariners manager Negrón talks hot hitters, coaching ex-teammates