Mariners’ Scott Servais: ‘I like being the underdog a little bit’

Jan 24, 2018, 1:22 PM
Scott Servais spoke on the importance of the Mariners getting off to a good start in 2018. (AP)...
Scott Servais spoke on the importance of the Mariners getting off to a good start in 2018. (AP)

Playing in the same division as the defending World Series champion and the winner of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, the Mariners are heading into 2018 under the radar.

Scott Servais doesn’t mind that.

“We’re in a good spot. I think being the underdog is not a bad thing,” the Mariners manager said Wednesday morning when he joined Brock and Salk in studio on 710 ESPN Seattle. “I like where we’re at as a club; I like being the underdog a little bit.”

Video: Full Scott Servais interview on Brock and Salk

But Servais pointed at one thing the Mariners have endured in each of his first two years at the helm that they could stand to correct in 2018, especially if they’re going to end their long playoff drought.

“We have started slow out of the gate the last couple years,” he said. “… I think we need to get off to a good start to build momentum in clubhouse, to build momentum in Safeco Field and build momentum in this city. People are dying for a winner here – we’re gonna get it done.”

Here are some additional notes from Servais’ interview, including news on players coming off of surgeries and a player he has high hopes for this year.

• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia and starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma are the two players who will ease into the year after each had shoulder surgery. Servais said Heredia “could be a little but late starting in spring training,” while Iwakuma is projected to return in late May or early June. Iwakuma, who turns 37 in April, pitched just six games in 2017 due to ongoing shoulder issues and returned to the team on a minor-league deal.

• All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano was hampered by nagging injuries in 2017, so Servais expects him to bounce back on defense after his range was diminished last year. “The range factor where he was at at second base, he did struggle through most of the season with a quad injury and you really saw it affect his game defensively based on what we saw in 2016, but working out he looks really good.”

• Mitch Haniger burst onto the scene in 2017, and he bounced back after dealing with multiple injuries to put together a strong final month. Servais is expecting even more out of his right fielder this season. “He had a great September, which is good for his confidence to see it come back again. It’s always good for a young player, once they struggle, ‘Can I get it back?’ We saw what it did for him, we’ve seen what it’s done for (Mike) Zunino in the past and where he’s at right now. Hanny’s got a chance to be a really special player and, more than on the field, also lead in the clubhouse.”

• Servais made a compelling argument when asked why fans should buy into the Mariners this year. “Reason for hope? There’s no way we can use 40 pitchers again.” To his point, it does seem unlikely the Mariners would tie the record for most pitchers used in a season for a second straight year.

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Mariners’ Scott Servais: ‘I like being the underdog a little bit’