SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: How Mariners and Servais view start of season differently

Mar 16, 2024, 6:21 PM

Seattle Mariners Scott Servais...

Manager Scott Servais of the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 28, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Those who were with the Seattle Mariners last year are carrying a little extra into the 2024 season.

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It is an extra that comes at a high price, but also with the opportunity to offset that price, perhaps in the long run wipe it out. It is the feeling of knowing they came up just short last year, a feeling they had to sit with all off season and a feeling none of them want to feel again.

The remedy? Win this year.

The realization? The importance of every game start to finish. Every game matters.

As a player, it is easy to see how they can impact games and adjust accordingly. But what about the manager who can’t take an at-bat or throw a pitch? How did coming up just short impact Scott Servais? Was there a different realization at the end of a season where expectations were missed by the slightest margin? Does he look at the start of this season any differently?

“Yes, I do look at it differently,” Servais said Saturday morning in Peoria.”I’ve talked about where are we at after 40 games. It takes 40 games to kind of situate your team, your bullpen. That will never change in my thinking. But in the past, in April, it may be a younger player and here comes a matchup that is really hard for this younger player. What I’m trying to do is instill confidence in this guy. I’m going to let him have this at-bat or I’m going to let (a pitcher) face this particular hitter, even though it may not be the best thing for the team in that moment. I know it could pay dividends for us down the road.

“I don’t want to get totally away from that, but maybe have a little bit shorter leash on how often I do that.”

In a division that could once again be close, the Mariners might not have the luxury of waiting for the dividends of confidence instilled early pay off.

“It’s not like you’re not trying to win the game in April. You are,” Servais said. “But you tried to weigh the positives and negatives of letting that young player or young pitcher try to work out of his own mess versus just like, ‘Let’s just try to clean it up right now and move forward and give us the best chance to win the game in the moment.’ So there’s been more thought put into it.”

When the team struggled the past two seasons, often players would lean on the ability they showed to come back in 2021 and 2022, saying they would be fine, they have been there before. While Servais didn’t address this directly Saturday morning, he did point to consistency as being something that could keep them out of that position.

“There has been a big-time emphasis on talking about it in our clubhouse by our players,” he said. “They understand every game really matters. And when you’re in a division like ours, which is going to be super competitive, if you can get off to a good start, it really helps things. It raises expectations in your clubhouse, it raises expectations of your fanbase, people show up at the ballpark. Instead of just, ‘Well, we’ve got to turn it on because the trading deadline is coming’ – that’s kind of what’s happened the last couple years – I want to turn it on right from the beginning and our guys are in a much different mindset this way.”

This is a more veteran club, some homegrown and some brought in. And it should be managed as such. It doesn’t mean a player will be yanked from a lineup if he goes 0-for-8, but you probably aren’t going to see an 0-for-31 trying to figure it out in the lineup, either.

There are still young players on the roster like Dom Canzone and Luke Raley who could have ups and downs, but Servais has better options on the bench than he did a year ago if the need arises.

Ultimately, Servais should be able to ask for more from a more veteran club, although from what we have seen in Peoria, at this point it doesn’t appear he needs to. They have expectations, too. It will be interesting to see what this looks like and how it plays out.

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Drayer: How Mariners and Servais view start of season differently