Mariners notebook: The full squad hits the field in Peoria
Scott Servais has participated in 28 spring trainings in his career, but Thursday he experienced a first. The first time he addressed an entire team as the manager for a start-of-spring-training speech.
It’s a moment he clearly has been looking forward to.
“It’s really exciting,” he said in his office an hour before the scheduled team meeting. “I think it is one thing to look at players on paper, how it all matches up, and then when they walk in the clubhouse you can see this is real. We have an exciting team and I can’t wait to get going.”
His message to the full group was similar to what it has been with the pitchers and catchers.
“We’re going to have fun,” Servais said. “We’re going to enjoy the game. We are going to do things a little differently and hopefully end up with a little bit of a different result at the end of the year.”
Things have looked different early on. There are more meetings – many are of the get-to-know-you variety, others are “chalk talks” on fundamentals. On the field, the warmups were a little more intense than I have seen previously and the drills went a little longer.
Servais is trying to strike the right balance between fun, necessary work, and accelerating the process of bringing a group with so many new faces together.
“I know we are not going to win the AL West in two days here,” he said. “Keeping expectations in check; for me it is getting comfortable, getting our culture rolling, getting our guys ready to play. At the end of the day it’s about ‘Are you ready? Are you ready to compete?’ It’s about April 4 being healthy, ready to roll, and guys in a good spot mentally and feeling good about where we are at and excited for what is ahead.”
• On the first day I always take note of what individuals are in what groups. Of interest, in infield drills the group on the main field was Kyle Seager at third base, Ketel Marte at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second base, Adam Lind and Jesus Montero at first base, and Chris Taylor at third, short and second. Also of note, Franklin Gutierrez hit in the middle-of-the-order batting group which also included Cano, Seager and Nelson Cruz (see video above).
• While Jerry Dipoto has said defense will be very important for whoever wins the platoon spot at first base opposite Lind, Servais is very intrigued to see what Montero can do at the plate. “It’s a big bat,” he said. “We certainly have a spot open as a right-handed bat at first base. He’s in that competition. I’m excited to see him. I haven’t seen him since he was 15 years old trying out down in Venezuela. Everybody was always intrigued by the bat. He’s going to get plenty of opportunity.”
• Dae Ho Lee has been getting extra work at first base with third-base coach Manny Acta. Lee met with the media this afternoon and described his hitting style through an interpreter. “I’m not really a big home run guy,” he said. “I just try put everything on the center so when it is hit good, it is an automatic home run.” Lee also said that contrary to a number of reports he has only lost 15 pounds, not 50. I am not sure if this is correct. He does look smaller than a number of pictures and video we have seen from his playing days in Japan. He did bristle a little bit when asked if he would accept an assignment to the minors should he not make the team out of spring training. “That’s a very negative question,” he said. “I don’t even think about it.”
• MLB and the MLBPA jointly announced Thursday morning two new rules regarding slides on double plays and pace of games. From the press release: Under new Rule 6.01, slides on potential double plays will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide. A runner will be specifically prohibited from changing his pathway to the base or utilizing a “roll block” for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder. Potential violations of Rule 6.01(j) will be reviewable using instant replay. Also reviewable will be “neighborhood play” calls, which previously were exempted from replay review. The pace of game program will expand this season to include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher’s mound by managers and pitching coaches. In addition, break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games. The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.