Mariners’ Servais: How depth beyond MLB roster is shining for Seattle

Mar 1, 2023, 1:11 PM

Mariners Scott Servais...

Mariners manager Scott Servais during a spring training game against the Padres on Feb. 24, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Every iteration of spring training is different, but this one is especially different for the Seattle Mariners.

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“I do not have to answer questions about being the longest professional sports organization without reaching the playoffs,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Tuesday to Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. “That is the best thing about this camp.”

Of course, that means the Mariners have different goals in mind going into the 2023 season.

“TTat is quickly being pushed aside, and now it’s about getting our guys ready. We’ve talked all offseason (about how) we like our team, we’ve added some key guys I think are really going to help, and now we’ve gotta go out and do it. Gotta get in shape, get ready to go and get ready to tee it up on March 30.”

Coming off back-to-back 90-win seasons – and the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2001 – Seattle’s roster is largely set.

“I think it’s much different than previous years. It seems like every year I’ve been here it’s been the fifth starter spot or there’s different things in your bullpen or who’s the utility guy going to be, who’s going to win these different starting jobs. Not so much this year,” Servais said.

The Mariners do have a roster question with that fifth rotation spot, though, as both Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen are back for the 2023 season behind fellow starters Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert.

“I think it’s something you don’t have to make on Feb. 28. I think you let it play out throughout the spring,” Servais said of the No. 5 rotation spot. “Both guys will get stretched out – they are starters in our mind. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Gonzales “has been a starter his whole career and that’s where he fits,” Servais said, while Flexen “has done some different things” in his career, including moving to the Mariners’ bullpen last season after a midseason trade for Luis Castillo.

“We’ll make the best decision for our team to put the best 13-man pitching staff together that gives us a chance to win early on in the season. Now that may shift, that may change as the season goes on. We’ll see how it plays out,” Servais said. “But it’s Feb. 28 and each of those guys have got one outing under their belt and they’ve looked pretty good.”

As far as the rest of the roster goes, Servais said “there are always surprises” and that a few players have made an impression that have him thinking, “Whoa, this guy’s gonna help us.”

“He may not be with us on March 30, but he may be with us on May 1 when things start to happen and you start settling in with your team,” Servais said, speaking in general of players on Seattle’s roster bubble. “And unfortunately, injuries happen. There’ll be opportunities for a lot of guys so I like our depth.”

“There’s quite a few guys … (that) are good enough to make our opening day roster. Will they or not? We’ll see how it all plays out,” he later added. “But they will play a key role for us.”

That message was one Servais stressed right at the start of camp.

“It’s something I talked about in our opening meeting. I looked around the room and (said), ‘You don’t necessarily have to start the season with us to play a key role,’ and I turned around I said, ‘George, would you agree with that?’ Because George Kirby wasn’t on our opening day roster last year, and I think he played a pretty integral part to what we were able to accomplish,” he said.

Injuries are a part of the game, Servais said, and the Mariners have a flexible roster that could help weather the storm.

“You need to have some capable guys stepping in there,” he said. “The fact that we have guys that can play multiple positions and move around the field is super valuable to me. You’re gonna lose a little bit, but it’s not like a complete, total drop off.”

Even if a player isn’t set up to break camp with the Mariners’ big league roster, they are competing for MLB opportunities, Servais said.

“They’re fighting to put themselves a little bit higher on the depth chart, so even if they don’t make the team out of spring, they’re in a great spot (where) they go out to Tacoma or they go to Arkansas (to start the season) and they get off to a good start and bam, they’re here before they know it and you take off from there,” he said.

Listen to the full conversation with Servais in the podcast player below or video near the top of this post.

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