BRENT STECKER

Notebook: Scott Servais says Mariners still need struggling veterans to lead

Apr 10, 2017, 11:49 AM | Updated: 12:06 pm
Third baseman Kyle Seager went 3 for 23 to start the season on the Mariners' seven-game road trip. ...
Third baseman Kyle Seager went 3 for 23 to start the season on the Mariners' seven-game road trip. (AP)
(AP)

The Mariners have no shortage of veteran leaders on the roster, so those veterans are as much a part of Seattle’s slow start as anybody.

Before Monday’s home opener against the Houston Astros, manager Scott Servais said he’s looking for those players to contribute more than on the field to help get the team back on track after a 1-6 start.

“Even the veteran players, they’re not off to great starts, and at times they’re gonna get locked in, ‘OK, how do I get this fixed? I take care of myself, I get the big hit, I make the big play, I have the big shut-down inning.’ And at times you get so locked in on yourself, and I think the veteran guys, we still need them to lead,” Servais said.

“A big part of our team is our veteran core and their leadership ability. I think as the bats warm up and things get a little bit better, I think they’ll get a little more comfortable where they’re at and you’ll see us take off.”

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One of those veterans Servais hopes to see get going at the plate is Kyle Seager, who is a known slow starter. Servais doesn’t want that to be an excuse, however, and expects Seager to be proactive after beginning the year 3 for 23.

“Every year is different. You can’t just say ‘I’m always a slow starter.’ I think the quality of Kyle’s at-bats, I know he’s not happy with it. … He needs to get a little bit more aggressive,” Servais said.

Servais added that Seager – who set career highs in average (.278), home runs (30), RBIs (99) and OPS (.858) in 2016 – is an aggressive player in nature and will have to swing his way out of his slump.

“Let it rip. Whether you get in a good count, you swing at a bad pitch, so be it, but let’s stay in aggressive mode. That’s really the only way to kind of get out of it. You gotta keep hacking. He will. I feel good about that. I thought yesterday, a couple of his at-bats he started letting it go a little bit. It’s going to look like a wild swing every once in a while, and I’m OK with that. But let it rip, let it go, let your ability play out.”

Standing by Diaz

Edwin Diaz suffered his first blown save of 2017 in Sunday’s collapse to the Angels, but Servais is standing by his 23-year-old closer. The skipper explained that closers aren’t always ready to come into games when their teams have big leads heading into the ninth inning, which the Mariners did with a six-run advantage in Anaheim, and that Diaz didn’t have the benefit of his best breaking ball.

“You’re the closer, it’s 9-3, sometimes you’re not totally locked in on you’re going to be in this game, and that can jump up on you like it did yesterday,” Servais said. “It was probably more his wipeout pitch is the slider – everybody knows he’s got a great fastball but the slider’s the equalizer – (and) he didn’t really have a great slider yesterday. He got in some fastball counts and, you know, they found some holes against him. It happens. Eddie’s gonna be our closer. He’s got a great arm. Love, love his makeup and how he goes about it.

“He’ll be out there tonight if we’ve got a lead.”

Familiar territory for M’s

It might not sound like a good thing, but the Mariners are no strangers to bad starts like this. Servais definitely remembers the 2-6 start they got off to last year – and he hasn’t forgotten that they played their way back into the playoff race, either.

“I’ve been down this road. … Did we forget about how this played out? I certainly didn’t,” he said. “I think we learned a lot about each other last year going through it. We’re going to continue to learn a lot about each other. That’s one of the things we talked about after the game yesterday is we believe we have a good team. I love our team, I really do. I like our team, I like the personalities, the character of our team, how we line up, the bullpen, everything I like about our team.

“But liking it and going out and doing it are two different things, and you gotta go out and compete every day because nobody’s gonna feel sorry for you, nobody’s gonna give you anything in this league. You’ve gotta go earn it. That’s where we’re at.”

Notes

• What changes for a struggling team coming home from a rough road trip? “It’s a lot easier here,” Servais said. “It means a lot, these guys coming home, playing in our ballpark with our fans there behind us.”

• Mariners president Kevin Mather joined “Brock and Salk” from Safeco Field ahead of the home opener. You can listen to a podcast of the interview here.

• You can find the lineups in this post for the 2:10 p.m. home opener against the Astros on 710 ESPN Seattle.

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Notebook: Scott Servais says Mariners still need struggling veterans to lead