BROCK AND SALK

What Servais said about slow starts for Mariners, Julio and Castillo

Apr 9, 2024, 8:52 AM | Updated: 11:05 am

Seattle Mariners Luis Castillo...

Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners pitches on April 8, 2024. (Cole Burston/Getty Images)

(Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Slow starts aren’t a new thing for the Seattle Mariners, but they were hoping to kick that trend in 2024.

Toronto Blue Jays top Seattle Mariners 5-2 in series opener

Seattle so far has dropped two of its first three series of the season, and the Mariners just lost their series opener Monday to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2. They are now 4-7 on the year.

“I’m a little surprised that we didn’t come out of the gates a little hotter. It’s probably the most excited I’ve been about getting the season going leaving spring training,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday. “… I really felt leaving spring training we would come out of the gates better than we have.”

Offensively, the Mariners are struggling to string together baserunners, and the strikeout has again been prevalent. Additionally, the Mariners’ pitching staff, which Servais called “the backbone of our team,” has been inconsistent through the first two turns of the rotation.

“The combination of the hitting, inconsistent starts on the mound, it really hasn’t allowed us to get any rhythm going yet,” Servais said. ” … It just hasn’t clicked yet and we need to get it going.”

The M’s aimed to change their offensive philosophy this year, hiring Brant Brown as offensive coordinator and putting more of an emphasis on putting the ball in play. The early results haven’t been there, but Servais doesn’t think it has anything to do with the team’s gameplans.

“How we go about our approach each night, I actually think it’s in a better spot now than it’s ever been,” he said. “But again, you can have all the meetings and talk about all the things you want at 5:00, but when the lights come on at 7:00, you’ve got to go out and execute.”

The Mariners stressed the importance of getting off to a better start throughout the offseason, especially after missing out on the playoffs by a single game in 2023.

“If anybody’s seen our seasons the last few years, they understand that we have turned it on once you get to the mid or to the end part of the season, for whatever reason. And we were hoping that was not going to be what we needed to do this year,” Servais said. “But it is a long journey.”

Julio Rodríguez made some adjustments

The Mariners have one of MLB’s brightest young stars in center field with Julio Rodríguez. The 23 year old is already a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger.

But like much of Seattle’s lineup, Rodríguez has yet to get going at the plate. He enters Tuesday with a .186/.239/.209 slash line and just one extra-base hit, which was a double in his first at-bat of 2024.

Like the Mariners at large, slow starts aren’t new for Rodríguez, but this year’s is different than his first two years, Servais said.

In 2022, Rodríguez was a rookie getting his footing at the MLB level and notably wasn’t getting much help from home plate umpires.

Last year, Servais thinks Rodríguez put too much pressure on himself in part because the MLB All-Star Game was in Seattle.

“I think this year, he has a clear understanding of what it’s like to get out of a little bit of a slump, if you want to call it that,” Servais said.

Monday was an 0-for-4 night for Rodríguez, but he did hit the ball hard. Servais hopes that’s the start of something big for the young outfielder.

“Again, I’m looking at his most recent stuff, I know he came in early yesterday, he made some adjustments just trying to get the ball out front a little bit more,” Servais said. “I talk about it, and I’m serious about it, when he hits the ball in the air, it is awesome. He just hits it so hard. He just does things that other players don’t do … He did make some adjustments last night and hopefully builds on that.”

Luis Castillo’s pitch quality good, but he’s not locating

Rodríguez is the Mariners’ best hitter and player, and Luis Castillo is the team’s No. 1 starting pitcher.

The three-time All-Star once again got the opening day nod for Seattle, but through three starts, he has hardly looked like the frontline starter we’re used to seeing.

In 15 2/3 innings, Castillo has allowed an MLB-leading 25 hits and 12 earned runs. He has a 6.89 ERA and 1.851 WHIP and is averaging 14.4 hits allowed per nine innings.

Stuff-wise, there are no concerns with Castillo, Servais said.

“I think the quality of the pitches, whether it’s fastball velocity or movement, the slider, the changeup, they’re all about the same as what we’ve seen in the past,” he said. “It really comes down to execution. We saw it last night.”

Castillo allowed nine hits and four runs over five innings in Toronto on Monday, and Servais said that despite getting ahead in the count, Castillo would find too much of the plate.

“(Normally) when he gets somebody to two strikes and he gets up on top of them, he buries them, he kills them,” Servais said. “And we haven’t seen his ability to do that. He just hasn’t been as consistent and it’s hurt him. He’s given up more hits than we’ve ever seen him give up. He’s never had a stretch like this with us. I would be more concerned if the pitch characteristics were backing up (like) the velocity, the movement, things like that. Those aren’t. Those are as good as they’ve ever been.”

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

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Seattle Mariners Roster Moves: Seven players involved in flurry
• Mariners Notebook: Thoughts on offense, more from the road
• Mariners infielder tests the limits with impossibly slow pitch
‘The time to strike’ is now for Seattle Mariners
• Why it may ‘take a little time’ for Seattle Mariners’ changes at the plate

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What Servais said about slow starts for Mariners, Julio and Castillo