GM Hollander details which Mariners have stood out this spring

Mar 20, 2024, 5:22 PM

Seattle Mariners Andres Munoz...

Andres Munoz of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Cleveland Guardians on April 2, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

We’re inching closer and closer to the start of the regular season as the Seattle Mariners are just over a week away from opening day against the Boston Red Sox.

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The M’s have been hard at work in Arizona preparing for the regular season, so what have been some of the best surprises and developments of spring training? Mariners general manager Justin Hollander dove into that with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

“I think the the group of bullpen arms that we’ve talked about – unfortunately Jackson Kowar went down with Tommy John – but the rest of that group has been really interesting,” Hollander said. “They’ve thrown a lot of strikes, their stuff is really good. I think the velocity, we’ve seen the stuff, the strikes over the last week or so has been really good.”

That group is largely made up of unproven arms fighting for roster spots.

That’s far from the case with Andrés Muñoz, Seattle’s flamethrowing reliever who has been arguably the team’s top bullpen arm each of the last two years.

Muñoz has still stood out this spring, which Hollander is very excited about.

“I think ‘Muni’ looks awesome, both physically, like how in shape he is ,and also what’s coming out of his hand right now,” Hollander said. “It’s like midseason form.”

What may have helped Muñoz, Hollander noted, is that he came into camp fully healthy. He had foot surgery after the 2022 campaign and didn’t have a normal offseason, but he was able to have that this year.

“He came into camp like in midseason form. He looks awesome,” Hollander said. “I think he’s moving a lot better. A lot of the stuff we do behind the scenes is showing. He’s moving more powerfully than he did last year, so really excited about where Muni is at right now.”

As far as hitters go, perhaps no bat has been more of a pleasant surprise this spring than outfielder Dominic Canzone, who joined the Mariners last July in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“He’s more physical – I think everybody’s seen it out here – and the at-bats, the quality of the at-bats and pitch selection we’ve seen from him this spring training has been really, really a big difference from what we’ve seen when he first came to the Mariners,” Hollander said. “And that’s something we knew we were going to have to address, and I think he’s done a great job addressing it.”

Another outfielder is worthy of attention and discussion, too.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise because we know him so well, but just thrilled to see Mitch Haniger back in our uniform,” Hollander said.

Haniger left the Mariners last offseason, signing a free-agent deal with the San Francisco Giants, but the veteran outfielder was traded back to the Mariners in January.

“He brings so much I think that people don’t see behind the scenes and physically he looks awesome right now,” Hollander said. “And I just think he’s excited to be here and be back, and we’re so excited to have him.”

Haniger has gotten off to a big start this spring as he slugged his M’s-leading fourth home run of the spring on Tuesday.

So how did his return come to fruition?

“It was interesting this winter. There were four or five teams that felt like they had a dozen outfielders, and four or five teams that felt like they had two, not even enough to get through a season. The Giants were one of those teams that had a heavy roster of outfielders within both their 26-man and their 40-man (rosters),” Hollander said.

Hollander said that when the offseason begins, he and team president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto “split up” the teams they talk to – 15 for one, 14 for the other – and they “just start making calls.”

As for who gets what teams, it’s all about relationships, Hollander said.

“Jerry has the Giants. He and (Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi) have known each other … for a long time. So he takes the Giants and I think that was just one of our early calls to lob in and find out, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing with all these outfielders? You can only play three at once. Are you are you open to talking about those guys?'” Hollander said. “And the conversations evolved over the winter.”

Listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with Seattle Mariners GM Justin Hollander in the podcast at this link or in the player neat the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

AL West Preview: How do Mariners stack up vs Rangers, Astros?
Dipoto on what could unlock Mariners’ Dominic Canzone for a breakout
Mariners Notebook: Opening day starter set, plus a pitch clock wrinkle
Julio Rodríguez details his offseason meeting with Scott Servais
Drayer: How Servais’ Seattle Mariners view start of season differently

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GM Hollander details which Mariners have stood out this spring