SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: How will M’s handle the outfield?

Feb 23, 2024, 10:55 AM

Seattle Mariners Luke Raley...

Luke Raley of Tampa Bay reacts after a double against the Seattle Mariners on June 30, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

How will Scott Servais handle the Seattle Mariners’ outfield with four players and no DH spot to play them in? It’s a question that was asked many times throughout the offseason.

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Will there be platoons? Is the fourth outfielder more of a bench guy? Or is it Julio Rodríguez and three guys who are going to rotate based on specific information?

What’s the plan, Skip?

“I think all of them may be correct?” Servais answered. “Julio’s Julio. I hope he can play as many games as possible. I think the other guys between (Luke) Raley, (Dominic) Canzone and (Mitch) Haniger, you have some flexibility matchup-wise. You also have seen me – not just me, but most managers – you ride the hot hand. If a guy’s going well and he’s tearing it up, you keep him in there. You also have to be smart with certain guys to give them days off. There’ll be some guys that are not going to be happy every day not being in the lineup, but that’s a good thing. You need depth and things will happen and a guy gets banged up or hit by a pitch. I like the setup of our outfield. I think it’s really good. And we still have (Dylan Moore) and (Sam) Haggerty (who can play) if there is a bunch of lefties that we face in a row. So I like the versatility.”

Julio and Haniger to a large part are known quantities to the Mariners. The wild cards are Raley and Canzone, who Servais pointed to as an early standout in camp.

“I think he’s a critical player for us this year,” he said. “Being able to give guys days off, he is going to match up very well against right-handed pitching. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for him. He is really focused right now. He got a taste of the big leagues last year for the first time and he’s never made an opening day roster. He wants to be a big contributor. He’s got the tools to do it, we’ll see how the adjustments he made will play out this spring. But he looks great.”

Canzone came to the Mariners in the Paul Sewald trade with just 182 major league plate appearances under his belt. The impression he made was mixed.

He showed great power, hitting the Mariners’ fifth-longest home run in 2023 and no, it wasn’t the bomb hit at the space formerly known as the Hit it Here Cafe, rather a 448-foot blast to right field and the second deck in Oakland that left the bat at 112 mph. That was the good.

What was seen in the field and on the bases falls into the other category, but Servais believes that was not quite representative of what Canzone can do as he was battling lower body injuries after the trade. Bottom line is he’s a young player still making adjustments. For now, he brings a low strikeout percentage with high out of zone swings, something Servais believes can be improved upon.

“The biggest thing is you need to get stronger and make some adjustments to his swing,” he said of Canzone’s player plan. “His timing in his swing that will eventually help him make better swing decisions. Ultimately, it’s tied to the strike zone and controlling it. I think he looks great so far.”

The other wild card, Raley, comes with a tad bit more experience having played his first full season at the big league level last year. His story is a bit different with a tale of two halves. The eye-catching good, a .925 OPS in the first half, and the falloff of a .677 in the second. Can he overcome the adjustments the league made against him in the second half last year. Let’s just say there is some intrigue.

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“There’s some swing and miss in his game,” said Servais. “I will say he may have as high of a ceiling as any of those outfielders outside of Julio because when he hits the ball, it is special. It’s big-time power. I think with him, the swing decisions are a big thing, both he and Dom. I think with Rales, he has a tendency to be pretty streaky throughout, his career. Hopefully a little bit more consistency. You know, get a better player at the end of the year.”

On the intangibles side of things, Servais was impressed what he saw in a live BP earlier this week.

“I love the makeup of the player just being around him and he is about his blue collar as anybody we have out there,” said Servais. “He took a 94 mph fastball off his kneecap and he never budged. Just walked over and sat down on the bench. So later after the live BP was over, I walked up there and asked ‘Are you OK?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s killing me, but you can’t show it.’ He’s wired the right way, you know?”

Seattle Mariners notes

• The Mariners begin Cactus League play Saturday with Casey Lawrence to get the ball first.

• Often the final practice before games begin we see an intrasquad game or some sort of full squad skills competition. This year? Nothing special.

“I think when I was doing those things early on, you’re trying to learn about team and how they react to certain things,” said Servais. “I have a pretty good idea how this team’s wired.”

The focus in the practices that Servais will want to see carried over into games have been set in the daily meetings where things haven’t quite been business as usual. Bench coach/offensive coordinator Brant Brown is taking on an important role.

“He has been going through his chalk talk meetings every day and trying to give the guys an idea on what he’s about,” said Servais. “Different ways of attacking the things that we need to get better at and then trying to not just identify, ‘Hey, we need to get better at this,’ but then give them the tools. Like, ‘Here’s how we’re going to do this.’ And I think that’s really important. You see it already playing out different intent with our batting practice. You’re probably not seeing guys seeing how far they can hit it. There’s a little bit more intent behind it. It’s just makes more sense to how we’re trying to practice and get more out of it. I’ve seen a difference already. We’ll see how it plays out in the games. We have a long ways to go.”

• Today was the annual picture day where Mariners players have to put on their home whites first thing in the morning and make a progression through various stations to get pictures and videos for everything from baseball cards to in-house social media needs. I shared some interesting sights social media this morning, and yes, Cal kept the bear.

• With games starting Saturday, the full spring broadcast schedule can be found here.

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