Concerned about how Mariners are using the DH? ESPN’s Passan isn’t

Apr 5, 2023, 1:34 AM

Mariners Tommy La Stella...

Tommy La Stella of the Seattle Mariners at bat on Opening Day on March 30, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners struggled to get the bats going through their first five games, and even after the offense broke out in Tuesday’s 11-2 rout of the Angels, the designated hitter spot has given the team almost no production.

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Collectively, the M’s are hitting .218. The DH spot, meanwhile, has just two hits in 20 at-bats, or a .100 batting average.

Through those five games, the Mariners have used four different designated hitters: Tommy La Stella, Cooper Hummel, Tom Murphy, and usual right fielder Teoscar Hernández.

The Mariners have said the plan is to rotate players through with the DH spot depending on matchups, as well as to help get regular fielders like Hernández get a day off without losing their bat in the lineup.

There has been a lot of conversation about whether the Mariners are approaching the DH spot incorrectly. Should they have gone out and gotten an everyday DH this past offseason? Here’s what ESPN’s Jeff Passan told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday.

“I don’t know that there is a best practice (with the DH spot),” Passan said. “I think it kind of depends on who fits in well in terms of platoon that day, who might need a rest because they’ve been out there a lot. I see the DH spot, unless you have a Shohei Ohtani or just like ‘capital D’ dude in that position, I see it almost like a role that you use to give guys a breather or take advantage of platoon spots.”

Very few MLB teams have a regular DH, Passan said, noting only a small handful of regular designated hitters registered enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title in 2022.

“I’m telling you, the regular everyday DH, like the big slugger, he’s just not a thing anymore,” he said. “And if you have one, that’s great. But if I’m a manager, I want to use the DH to give my guys a day off.”

La Stella has received two of the starts at DH for the Mariners, something that has particularly come up as a source of frustration for fans on social media. While his offseason addition for the league minimum salary and place on the roster may not move the needle much for M’s fans, Passan thinks the veteran infielder is still a good player who will contribute for Seattle this season.

“I’ll tell you what, though, I’m sorry, I think Tommy La Stella is good. He’s a good hitter,” he said. “He’s not a slugger by any means, but he’s a guy who doesn’t strikeout and who (former Angels managed) Joe Maddon called ‘3 a.m’ because he could fall out of bed hitting. And I’m not saying Tommy La Stella is going to be the savior for this team, but if Tommy La Stella is healthy, he’s going to get some hits for this team this year, I have no doubt about that.”

Passan joins Brock and Salk at 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday live on Seattle Sports during the baseball season. Listen to this week’s conversation in the podcast below.

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Concerned about how Mariners are using the DH? ESPN’s Passan isn’t