Scott Servais on the plan for Adam Lind, the Mariners’ commitment to Mike Zunino and more

Dec 9, 2015, 5:18 PM | Updated: Jan 15, 2016, 10:14 am
Scott Servais: “Adam Lind is a good player. That’s why we gave up good players to acqui...
Scott Servais: "Adam Lind is a good player. That's why we gave up good players to acquire him." (AP)
(AP)

While it is the general managers who are front and center at the baseball Winter Meetings, the managers attend as well. Each manager is scheduled for a formal interview session with the media at some point in the first three days, and on Wednesday Scott Servais took his turn.

We really haven’t had a chance to hear much from Servais since he was hired by the Mariners so it was interesting to get his take on his new club and to hear a little bit more about how he plans to go about his business as manager.

Although the offseason is usually mostly off for field managers, new managers have clubs and front offices to learn. Servais already has good knowledge of and a good relationship with his boss, Jerry Dipoto, having known him since his playing days and having worked under him with the Angels. While so much is new with the Mariners, both in personnel and philosophy, the manager and general manager will not need to spend time learning the other and trying to get on the same page.

“Knowing how the other person really ticks certainly helps,” Servais said. “I understand how he thinks, I know he understands how I think. It speeds up the learning curve a little when you are looking at the roster and how players are going to be put in play. The analytical part of it and what goes on in the front office, it is important everybody is on the same page. Youre looking for competitive advantage. You have to use all the resources to try to win today’s game.”

Servais has already started to learn his players having met with 10-12 of them, including Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Mike Zunino, Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in person, and talking to others on the phone. Marte is a player he is particularly excited to have on his roster.

“I think he fits exactly what we are looking for as far as a guy to create havoc on the bases,” Servais said. “Offensively, we want to be aggressive. I think he brings some attitude, some swag to his game, which I don’t think is a bad thing. He’s very confident. Fortunately for me I’ve got veteran players around him that can help control that at times. He’s going to be a key piece of our club.”

Servais clearly got a good internal scouting report on Marte. He does have a little bit of attitude and definitely does not lack in confidence. Not a bad thing in a young player but something that needs to be watched. Last year we saw the vets keeping an eye on that.

On the field, Servais wasn’t ready to commit to a spot in the order for Marte. While he hit .281 with a .350 on-base percentage in 54 games at the top of the order last season, Servais wants to see more.

“No doubt, (hitting first or second) is where I think he eventually settles in,” Servais said. “He’ll let us know when he’s ready to do that. It might start out opening day or it may be later in the season. We’ll see how the lineup comes together as we go through spring training.”

How he plans to use the newly acquired Adam Lind was another topic. Lind’s numbers against right-handed starters over the last three years are among the best in baseball, but he also owns one of the largest platoon splits.

“Adam Lind is dominant against right-handed pitching,” Servais said. “In a perfect world, you’re giving him a day off here or there versus a tough lefty. You want to put players in a position to succeed, that’s my job, the coaching staff’s job. If that means you are going to use your entire roster, I could think somewhere else on our roster there would be a right-handed hitting first baseman to match up with him. If not, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to play. Adam Lind is a good player. That’s why we gave up good players to acquire him.”

That comment and others would indicate that Jesus Montero has a good chance of making this roster. At a minimum, it would appear he is heading to spring training with the team.

“There’s a spot for him on our club,” Servais said of Montero. “He needs to perform well in spring training and going forward into the season we would really like him to be able to mash those left-handed pitchers, and I think he knows what’s ahead of him.”

Competition is most likely ahead of him. The spot that would go to Montero is the last open spot on the bench. Dipoto values versatility and would like to add another player who can fill multiple roles. Montero needs to show decent defense at first and the ability to hit lefties in spring training to earn that spot.

Servais was asked if Montero could play other positions and he laughed and said that he would not catch. Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger will hold down the position until Mike Zunino is ready to return. While there is catch-up work to be done by Zunino, I think there is little question that the new general manager and manager are committed to him in the long term. On the day of his introductory press conference, Servais said that he was very intrigued by Zunino. One of his first in-person player visits was with Zunino and it sounds like the trust is starting to be established. Servais understands what it is like to be a young catcher in the league and can appreciate the pressure that Zunino has been under. He had some interesting comments that point to what one of the problems may have been for Zunino last year.

“I’m sure a lot of people want to help Mike Zunino,” Servais said. “Ultimately it is his career and he has to make the decision who he wants to listen to, why he wants to listen them and go forward from there. He needs to narrow that focus. That is the message I gave to him. Who is in your circle, who is your guy … that you are going to entrust.”

A lot of people did want to help Zunino last year, and behind the scenes I heard that a lot of suggestions were made. Too many suggestions, from too many people. I have heard that this was a problem with other players as well. For a veteran it is easy to tune out or pick and choose the help that is being lobbed your way. With a younger player it can be different not knowing who he should listen too or perhaps thinking he is expected to listen to all of them. I think this was less of a problem after Edgar Martinez took over as hitting coach. It is good to hear Servais get a little tough with this, telling Zunino it is up to him to find his circle and tune out the other stuff.

“Mike is going to be a very good major-league player, there is no doubt in my mind, in Jerry’s mind. It is just when. And he will let us know,” Servais said.

Notes

• While Dipoto upped his pace from a trade a week to a trade a day at the Winter Meetings, Thursday could be a quiet day for the Mariners as the meetings will come to an end following the Rule 5 Draft, which begins at 7 a.m. PT. The Mariners’ 40-man roster is full and it is unlikely they will clear a spot to make a pick.

• The Mariners should receive the player to be named later from the Jose Ramirez trade. It will not be a player that needs to be put on the 40-man roster.

• Dipoto has all but said he is done with the position player side of the roster. He told reporters Wednesday that he would like to sign one more free-agent reliever.

• No podcast this week but there will be a “Hot Stove League” show that can be heard from 7-9 p.m. Friday on 710 ESPN Seattle. Rick Rizzs and Mike Blowers will join me for the broadcast, which will come to you from the Mariners Team Store at Southcenter. Dipoto is scheduled to join us in-person. If you are in the area stop by and say hello.

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Scott Servais on the plan for Adam Lind, the Mariners’ commitment to Mike Zunino and more