SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners notebook: Competition for Seattle’s utility role is full of choices

Feb 25, 2020, 11:56 AM | Updated: 12:44 pm
Mariners IF Tim Lopes...
Tim Lopes, who went 3 for 3 Monday, is in the battle to be the Mariners utility player. (Getty)
(Getty)

The battle for the Mariners’ utility player role is off and running.

Dipoto: 2020 M’s are much different than the 2019 ‘transition team’

In Monday’s 16-12 Cactus League loss to the Cubs, Tim Lopes went 3 for 3 with two doubles and four RBIs and Dylan Moore hit a laser beam of a two-run home run. Sam Haggerty, an infielder claimed off waivers from the Mets this winter, went 2 for 2 for good measure.

Manager Scott Servais will have choices when it comes to rounding out the Mariners bench.

“It will come down to how it fits on the club,” said Servais. “Haggerty can play all over the field, (Patrick) Wisdom is a different skill set, more of a corner guy with more power.”

Unlike past years, the ability to play shortstop won’t factor into the decision as prominently. That backup role will be taken by Dee Gordon, and while versatility is always valued, outfield skills might not be as important either. Of the 4,318 innings logged in the outfield last year, 723 of them were played by players whose main position is in the infield. That number should decrease in 2020, though it won’t completely disappear.

“We have more outfielders now than we used to,” said Servais. “We are a little more balanced on our 40-man roster in what’s available to us. In-season, when it’s called for, whether there is an injury or you want to give a left-handed bat a day off and run Lopes out there, Lopes handled himself very well in the outfield. Dylan Moore did very well in the outfield. Just to keep those guys going you might see that early on if they make the roster.”

Moore could have the leg up with the experience he gathered last year in playing multiple positions and staying ready and prepared through long stretches without starts. There is work to be done on his offense, however.

“He’s got power, the ball jumps off his bat,” said Servais. “There are certain areas of the strike zone he has to cover better. He needs to make some different adjustments with his swing. He worked on things in the winter. He certainly swung the bat well (Monday).”

As for Lopes, he showed well in his time in Seattle in 2019. Like many hitters, he has revamped his offense and is no longer a slap hitter, rather a guy that can drive the baseball all over the field.

“Tim can really swing the bat,” Servais said. “He’s a real threat with the bat. He can hit a fastball. I don’t care how hard they are throwing. He is one of the guys that can handle velocity. Pretty valuable in our game.”

Moore gets the start at third base Tuesday against the Brewers. That brings us to the lineup.

Lineup!

Shed Long Jr., 2B
J.P. Crawford, SS
Kyle Lewis, LF
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B
Evan White, DH
Jarred Kelenic, RF
Tom Murphy, C
Mallex Smith, CF
Dylan Moore, 3B

Kendall Graveman, RHP

Justus Sheffield is also scheduled to pitch. Relievers we should see include Zac Grotz, Cody Anderson, Joey Gerber and Wyatt Mills.

Mariners delay Walker’s spring debut

Taijuan Walker, who was originally scheduled to start the Mariners’ split-squad game against the Giants at home on Thursday, will instead throw a sim or B game, with his spring debut in a big league game to come after.

The Mariners are taking it a little slower with Walker, who has missed nearly two years following Tommy John surgery and a shoulder issue. His throwing sessions in camp have gone well, but he does look different as he has shortened up his arm motion. He also sounds different on the mound, something Servais commented on after his throwing session Monday.

“I thought he was getting after it. He’s added the Zack Greinke grunt on the pitches,” he said. “I thought Taijuan threw the ball pretty well. Stuff was pretty good, his secondary pitches have gotten better as he has gotten older. The consistency is much, much better. I’m curious to see how he continues to progress.”

It appears he is throwing harder than the 88 mph that was reported from a bullpen he threw last month in front of scouts for several MLB teams. While I don’t have the numbers, it is believed he was more 90-92 on Monday.

With Walker no longer pitching Thursday, Logan Gilbert has been moved from the road start against the White Sox to Peoria for the game against the Giants.

Rodeo reporting

Did you hear the story about Mason Saunders? If you haven’t, check it out. One of the better baseball stories I have seen in a long time.

Mason Saunders is the alias Madison Bumgarner has been using on the pro rodeo circuit, where apparently he is a pretty good team roper.

It just so happens we have an excellent rodeo resource in the Mariners organization. Athletic Trainer Emeritus Rick Griffin has been a pro rodeo trainer since 1981. While he couldn’t comment specifically on Bumgarner, he did give me the rundown on the danger level of team roping.

“On the danger scale of rodeo, it’s probably the lowest,” Griffin said. “I’ve done rodeo for 30 years and probably only treated and worked on half a dozen guys. They might get a rope burn but I have never seen anything super serious. I’ve never seen anyone fall off a horse (and) lose a thumb, which I have seen in calf roping. It really is not a dangerous event. It isn’t.”

For fun, I asked Griffin which of the current Mariners would be the best at which events. He had thoughts.

“I’ve got to find a big guy,” he said. “Dan Vogelbach in steer wrestling. Steer wrestlers are big guys. Most steer wrestlers are 6-2, 6-3, 230-240 pounds. Vogey is not quite that tall but he definitely has the weight and the size. He could be a steer wrestler.

“Kyle Seager,” he continued unprompted. “I could see him do something, maybe. I don’t want to put him on a bull because he might get hurt, maybe bareback or something.”

Keep going, Rick.

“Dee Gordon might be good at calf roping ’cause he’s quick, he’s agile. Jump off the horse, tie the cow…”

“Tom Murphy, I could see Murph be a steer wrestler too.”

So there you have it.

A look around the Mariners complex

If you ever wanted to know what it might look like on a Tuesday morning in Peoria, here you go.

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Mariners notebook: Competition for Seattle’s utility role is full of choices