SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners notebook: Jerry Dipoto ‘entirely focused on pitching’ in day 2 of Winter Meetings

Dec 12, 2017, 5:47 PM | Updated: 6:16 pm
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is zeroed in on adding some pitching for Seattle. (AP)...
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is zeroed in on adding some pitching for Seattle. (AP)
(AP)

Day 2 of the Winter Meetings was relatively quiet for the Mariners in terms of roster moves. We did hear from manager Scott Servais, who took his turn at the microphone, as well as Jerry Dipoto, who had his daily sitdown with a small group of local media. Dipoto reinforced what he said Monday, that barring anything unforeseen the work on the position player side is done for now. His attention is completely on the pitching.

Winter Meetings, Day 1: Dipoto addresses Mariners’ pursuit of Ohtani

“That’s our group,” he said.”Today we spent absolutely zero time talking about position players. We were entirely focused on our pitching.”

Along those lines, he said that he was perhaps “between first and second base” on a deal he said yesterday had a chance of being completed before the Mariners contingent leaves Orlando late Thursday morning. Before they leave they will also take part in the Rule 5 Draft, where Dipoto said he is anticipating taking a player.

Other notes of interest from Dipoto:

• He believes they will be able to make use of the slot money they had acquired to help in their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani.

“There’s still value to it in the market. Some combination of trade and spend. The likelihood is we are not going to be sitting on a pool of slot (money) when the curtain draws on this signing period.”

The signing period ends June 15, and while there are not a ton of players to choose from right now, he expects players to continue to become available.

“There’s always players. It’s year-round.”

• The Max Povse as a reliever experiment is over. He will come to spring training as a starter. The hope had been that there would be an uptick in velocity with Povse in shorter outings, like what Edwin Diaz and Dan Altavilla experienced. That did not happen. The Mariners were happy with what they saw from Povse in the Arizona Fall League, however.

“He still has the pitches, he’s still a strike-thrower and he went to the Fall League and said ‘I’m still Max Povse,'” Dipoto said. “It took him a while to get over what I think was unfair development – not on our our part, but on my part. We put him in a tough spot. Some of it was due to need, some curiosity. When we acquired him we thought he could be that (Chris) Devenski-type guy. It might not be in his DNA, his skill set.”

• With no World Baseball Classic taking players away from camp this year, Dipoto expects having a smaller spring training roster of around 54-56 players.

Servais speaks

The rotation was a hot topic of conversation for Servais as well, starting with Felix Hernandez.

“Everybody knows Felix has maybe taken a step back in the velocity of the fastball,” Servais said. “He has not lost his know-how, his feel for pitching. His competitiveness is all still there, and that’s what we need. If Felix can give us 30, 32 starts this year, he’ll put up his numbers and we’ll be just fine. But I think the expectations – and he set the bar very high, he did it to himself – are not quite where they were before. We realize that. He is actually wanting to show people he can still be the King and I would love to see him again.”

• And the rest of the rotation? Servais said that James Paxton has taken big steps forward on and off (leadership) the field. The only thing left to be seen is health. He expects Hisashi Iwakuma back in mid-May to June and believes he can contribute. As for the back end of the rotation?

“Erasmo Ramirez, acquiring him, I thought he did a really nice job coming in. We had to build him up, he was in the bullpen in Tampa, and we got him back. He’ll be in that mix to fill out the rotation. Marco Gonzales, we’ll see. We saw some glimpses. The struggle with Marco was to get through that lineup the third time. After having a full season away from the Tommy John surgery now, probably look to him to add the cutter back into his repertoire, which is going to be really important. It’s a pitch that he used a lot before he got hurt. He didn’t use it at all last year. So he’ll add that back into the mix and most of the left-handers who throw like he does in the league, they do have the ability to cut the ball in on right-handers. So it’s going to be important for him to get the feel of that pitch better.”

• Servais believes that the extra days off that teams will get next season, as per the collective bargaining agreement, will help with his rotation. He has also been meeting with Dr. Lorena Martin, director of high performance for the Mariners, to map out new ways to get the most out of his players.

“She will be involved in everything from sitting down with us, explaining how spring training plays out and the schedule and how to get guys enough rest, and as we get going through the season the sleep patterns of players. Nutrition is so important for these guys to recover because it is a grind. People don’t give enough credit to how long the season is. And keeping guys healthy and on the field.

“But my relationship with her, we will work very closely together. She will have a say. She’s not going to tell me who hits second or third or fourth, but maybe importantly staying out ahead of it, being proactive instead of reactive. If you give this guy a day right now, it may help him down the road. Sometimes as a manager you need that perspective because you can get so locked into today’s game, instead of looking at the bigger picture, so I think it’s going to be a big, big plus for us.”

• Servais was thrilled to see that Nelson Cruz had gathered teammates together in Miami for a series of workouts.

“I think it’s fantastic. It’s something that in the exit meetings at the end of the year, I know it’s an idea that Nelson had brought up to me. I thought it was tremendous. Really pushed for him to do that, and it really should be done with the players themselves. There’s not going to be any club personnel down there, no coaches whatsoever. Guys just spending some time together in the offseason working out, and Dee Gordon is going to join the group, Ryon Healy will join the group. So anytime you can do those things away from the field, it helps with the team building as we go into spring training knowing what’s ahead of us.

“So I appreciate the leadership and him stepping out and trying to set things like this up and the other guys jumping on board.”

Notes

• The Mariners did make a couple of minor league signings Tuesday, adding outfielder John Andreoli from the Cubs organization and first baseman Matt Hague, a former Kentwood and Huskies player who has some MLB experience. Hague hit .297/.373/.416 in Triple-A for the Twins last year.

• A quick thought on the minor league signings and waiver claims. Yes, there have been a lot of them, but the Mariners had by far the most minor league free agents leave the organization this fall. They need to replenish, particularly at the Triple-A level.

• In case you missed it, Tom Verducci on SI.com revealed Monday that Shohei Ohtani had a PRP shot in his elbow in October.

• Another interesting Ohtani piece comes from Zach Buchanan, who was given access to the presentation the Reds prepared for Ohtani.

• Away from Ohtani: Concussions aren’t limited to football players and catchers. Umpire Dale Scott is calling it a career after a shot to the mask forced him from his job.

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