BROCK AND SALK

What Scott Servais said about four key Mariners hitters

Feb 27, 2024, 2:58 PM | Updated: 3:31 pm

The Seattle Mariners’ lineup will feature a good mix of new names and familiar faces in 2024.

Servais: Seattle Mariners’ ‘high expectations’ in large part due to pitching

During a Tuesday sitdown interview live from Mariners spring training with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, manager Scott Servais dove into a few hitters who will be awfully important this upcoming season.

Let’s take a look at what he said about four players in particular.

Julio Rodríguez in ‘a great spot’

Can a fourth-place finish in American League MVP voting really be considered a down year?

For Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez, apparently so.

“I wasn’t happy with it,” Rodríguez told reporters last week. “I feel like a lot of people are going to say, ‘Oh, he was fourth in MVP. He did this, he did that. How can you not be happy?’ Well, I feel like there were a lot of moments I should have done better, like I could have done better. I know my ability.”

As a result, Rodríguez put together an intense offseason of work, something Servais got to see a bit of firsthand.

“Julio is in a great spot,” Servais told Brock Huard and Mike Salk.

Unfortunately for Rodríguez and the Mariners, the young outfielder hasn’t gotten into any of the M’s spring training games yet due to a sore hand. But that should change very soon, Servais said.

“I know he’s a little disappointed – he put so much work in in the offseason – that the hand flared up a little bit. But he feels good, really good,” he said. “Today, he’ll get in the cage and hit off the tee in there, get some flips – not a ton of volume, but just to make sure he feels good. And he’ll progress up to probably getting on the field here tomorrow and (see some) velo, and be in a game I would suspect this weekend at some point.”

Rodríguez is just 23 years old and entering his third MLB season, and Servais said he’s matured “quite a bit” during his time in MLB, including this offseason. Servais also acknowledged to Brock and Salk that his star player is “shrinking his circle.”

“Which I think is a good thing. You don’t need too many voices,” he said. “Certainly you want to be respectful and respect all the people that can help you, but you do have to shrink it. And I think he’s done a good job of that.”

All in all, Rodríguez has been “super focused” this offseason, especially since the Mariners came up just short of a playoff appearance.

“And not just him, but our entire team. I mentioned it early in camp, I think this is a very hungry group. And the reason I said that is these guys are working,” Servais said. “They want to address things that maybe they need to get better on or how we came up short as a team. And Julio is at the top of the list as far as that goes. He wants to be the best player that Julio Rodríguez can be, and I don’t think he’s there yet and I think he knows that.”

What Servais has seen with Garver and Polanco

The Mariners made a number of moves this offseason to address the lineup, and that includes reuniting a pair of former Minnesota Twins teammates.

On Christmas Eve, the Mariners signed catcher-turned-designated hitter Mitch Garver to a two-year deal. Later, they traded for second baseman Jorge Polanco, a former All-Star.

“The way our offseason played out, we’ve added some very impactful players into our lineup we needed to to maybe have a little bit different look to our offensive team,” Servais said. “And we have. I feel very confident it’s going to play out well for us. And I think our players, the ones that were here last year, see that those additions are guys that have a chance to be key contributors for us, and we needed it.”

With Garver and Polanco, the Mariners are getting two “very professional” players, though they are very different personality-wise.

Watch: New DH Mitch Garver crushes first homer with Mariners

“I think with Mitch Garver, he’s been very open,” Servais said. “He likes talking hitting and the game. And the fact that he’s a catcher, he’s involved with our guys there and what’s going on. So Garv’s got opinions on a lot of different things, which is very welcome. I love it.”

As for Polanco, he is “much more reserved,” which Servais said isn’t unexpected after talking to people who played with or coached Polanco in Minnesota.

For Polanco, joining the Mariners is a bit more of a shock than it is for Garver.

Garver was drafted and developed by the Twins before being traded to Texas ahead of 2022. Polanco, meanwhile, was signed by the Twins as a 16-year-old international free agent and had been with the organization that entire time before being traded to Seattle.

“I can’t even imagine what it’s like. He was with one organization for 14 years and now he’s got to flip and put a different jersey on,” Servais said. “And it takes a while. I told him that Day 1, ‘Be you, settle in.’ He doesn’t miss anything in the morning meeting, he’s paying attention to his teammates, I’m getting him engaged more in that. So eventually that (personality) is going to come out. He’s a really good player.”

Ty France ‘key’ to Seattle Mariners’ lineup

On top of new faces coming in and being expected to produce, the Mariners are relying on a bounceback season from first baseman Ty France, a 2022 All-Star who largely struggled in 2023.

France had a very different offseason than normal, working out and recrafting his swing at Driveline Baseball in Kent rather than doing things on his own.

Wait – does Mariners’ Ty France have some wheels now?

“I’ve seen a different focus from Ty France,” Servais said, “and I think it goes to the work he put in in the offseason when you spend that much time and energy going in to kind of retransform his body. He’s made adjustments with his swing. He’s in a different mindset than he was maybe a year ago because it wasn’t easy for him last year. He had a rough year. And we’ve seen other players come through here that have made some adjustments, and they get back on track rather quickly, and I think that’s where he’s headed.”

France is “key” to the Mariners’ lineup, Servais said.

“He can really hit. We’ve seen it. He can drive in runs, when he’s right, the ball is carrying out of the ballpark. He plays really good defense and he’s a good dude on top of it. He fits really well with our team. So he’s a key part of our offense moving forward in what he can do this year.”

Listen to Brock and Salk’s full interview with Scott Servais at this link or in the video player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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