SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners notebook: Utility players get a chance to shine

Mar 5, 2017, 9:22 AM | Updated: 10:21 am
Shawn O'Malley hit .229. with two home runs and six stolen bases in the Mariners' utility role last...
Shawn O'Malley hit .229. with two home runs and six stolen bases in the Mariners' utility role last season. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA Ariz. – Greetings from Peoria on a very quiet Sunday morning. Returning from a day off, my first thought when I walked into the clubhouse was: “Where’d everyone go?”

Robinson Cano’s retro egg chair was empty; Nelson Cruz was not ‘cruizing’ through the clubhouse: bat under arm; warm welcome for whoever he encountered. Jean Segura was also not at his locker, as he often is when the media arrives. A few World Baseball Classic players remained: Edwin Diaz, whose team is headquartered in Scottsdale, stuck around to throw a bullpen session and, of course, Felix Hernandez makes his last start of the spring in a few hours before joining the Venezuelan team in Surprise, Ariz. But still, you could feel the impact of missing a key few players in the clubhouse.

Notebook: Scott Servais on board with the new rules

The impact on the field will be interesting. Certainly, a lot of pop will be missing from the lineup but, in return, we will get a better look at guys battling for one of the few available spots on the roster: Utility player.

“They are going to play a lot,” manager Scott Servais said of Shawn O’Malley, Taylor Motter and Mike Freeman. “Back and forth, shortstop/second. Get some time in the outfield as well, maybe even show up at first base here and there. They all bring a little something different to the mix; their skillsets are a little different. I think they are all very capable.”

O’Malley has the most experience at the big-league level. All three have played a good mix of infield/outfield in the minors, with O’Malley playing a little more at shortstop, Motter at third base and Freeman second base. All three can steal a bag. O’Malley is a switch hitter, Motter is a right-handed hitter and Freeman is left-handed.

Last year, the ability to play shortstop was the No. 1 priority in determining who would fill the utility role. Shawn O’Malley found this out the hard way, showing everything possible offensively in the spring, posting a .471/.561/.706 slash-line only to see the final spot go to the player with the light bat but good defensive reputation: Luis Sardinas. However, that was 2016, with a rookie Ketel Marte starting at shortstop. This year the situation is different.

“Our shortstop is going to play a lot of games hopefully,” Servais said. “That is the toughest position to be able to man, but Motter has a history of it; O’Malley showed fine last year. Freeman is the one who probably has the least amount of experience at shortstop but I am comfortable running him out there. Just make the plays you are supposed to make.”

We will see quite a bit of all three starting today.

Lineups!

Mariners vs A’s

Leonys Martin, CF
Guillermo Heredia, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Carlos Ruiz, C
Boog Powell, LF
Shawn O’Malley, SS
Mike Freeman, 2B
James Ramsey, DH
Felix Hernandez, RHP

Mariners at Dodgers

Jarrod Dyson, CF
Taylor Motter 6
Mitch Haniger, RF
Danny Valencia, 1B
Mike Zunino , DH
Ben Gamel, LF
Steven Baron, C
Tyler Smith, 2B
Zach Shank, 3B
Andrew Moore, RHP

Notes:

• While Segura’s bat has stood out most early in camp, his first looks in the field have also been favorable.

“He’s got plenty of arm,” Servais said. “I think it is more of being at shortstop you are on more plays: the balls in the gap, the relay throws, being in the right spot all the time. He’s a dynamic offensive player, he certainly has the ability defensively. The hands are good; the range is fine, it’s just locking in, getting him comfortable to all of the shifting we do. I’m very happy with what I have seen so far.”

• While it is never a good idea to put too much into spring training numbers, here are some good ones.

The Mariners lead all teams with a .317 batting average and .401 OBP so far. The team’s 56 runs scored in eight games trails only the Yankees, who have scored 68 runs through 10 games.

• The Mariners have scheduled a B game with the Padres Monday morning to get a handful of pitchers more work. The 10 a.m. game will be six innings on a field yet to be announced, with Rob Whalen, Dan Altavilla, Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent, Shae Simmons, and Peter Tago scheduled to pitch.

• Tuesday will be the first off-day of camp, and it appears it will be truly off. Servais said nobody will be around that day. Off days a little later in camp often mean a pitcher or two will get work in a minor-league game if the break falls on his throw day.

Date Starting Pitcher
Tuesday, September 27 @ 6:40 pm

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