SEATTLE MARINERS

Scott Servais points to Oakland A’s as why Mariners could surprise

Mar 28, 2019, 1:19 PM | Updated: 1:26 pm

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Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales will start Opening Day at T-Mobile Park. (AP)

(AP)

While the Mariners officially opened their regular season in Japan last week, Thursday afternoon brings the opportunity for Seattle to host an opening day in its own ballpark. But in a season full of change – ballpark name included – Seattle’s fans run a scale from intrigue to indifference.

10 things you need to know for Mariners opening day

Manager Scott Servais is eyeing the team with a different lens as well, though as he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard and Mike Salk on the morning of the Mariners’ home opener, it’s one of excitement. Part of that stems from a conversation he had with Oakland Athletics skipper Bob Melvin.

“I’m excited, I really am,” Servais said. “Once you do your Opening Day in your own ballpark, you’ve got your fans that are in the seats. And our fanbase has been fantastic, they really have. And I think they’re looking forward to seeing some of the new faces that we have on this roster.”

Fourteen new Mariners are on the team’s active roster or injured list to start the season, five of whom are listed in Thursday’s lineup. Another change for fans: Instead of Félix Hernández, the Mariners’ Opening Day starter is 27-year-old Marco Gonzales, who is coming off his best year in the MLB (13-9, 4.00 ERA).

Outfielder Mitch Haniger was penciled in to lead off the lineup in an effort, Servais said pre-game, to stack right-handers against Boston left-hander Chris Sale.

“Our lineup will be a little bit different than it was the last couple years,” Servais said. “You’ll see us get moved around a little bit until we kind of settle in with all the pieces that we have. So I wouldn’t read too much into the first week or two of lineups and we’ll try some different things and see what fits best for all the guys.”

Asked about outside expectations for a team that’s been open about taking a step back in 2019, Servais said his focus is on how the team can develop and improve over the year — and on top of that, you never know what can happen. His example was Oakland’s surprise run in the second half of last year that resulted in a postseason berth.

“What I’m looking for out of this team is that we can continually get better in different areas,” Servais said. “Defensively, getting our bullpen situated. Hopefully some of the young guys in the bullpen… step up and grab spots and take on a significant role there. There’s some questions to be answered yet, but I think every team in the league’s got that going into Opening Day.

“You know, as much as people want to put on paper, ‘This is what the record’s going to be,’ or ‘This is where they’re going to finish,’ you look at last year’s season. I was talking to Bob Melvin over in Japan and he’s like, ‘Hey, nobody ever would’ve thought we were going to win 97 games last year. That’s why we play the game.’ And it’s fun to see this team come together. We had a good spring training, we were off to a good start over in Japan, that trip really helped bring our ball club together; guys get to know each other and bringing our families on the trip and stuff like that really helps. Hopefully that plays out on the field sooner rather than later. But what I’m really looking forward to watching is can we continually get better as the season goes on? That’s where I’ll keep my eye on.”

More on Mariners Opening Day

Domingo Santana may be the Mariners player to watch this season
Lydia Cruz’s Opening Day poem welcomes M’s back
Mike Salk celebrates the return of baseball on Mariners Opening Day

Drayer: M’s should score runs, but pitching and defense are questions
Table Setter: 10 reasons why the 2019 Mariners season will be fun
Ex-M’s LHP O’Flaherty has advice for Félix to lengthen his career

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