Mariners arrive early to begin preparing for opener in Japan
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — If nothing else, the Seattle Mariners‘ early arrival for spring training will give them a little more meet-and-greet time.
The Mariners have 20 new players, including seven projected new starters, on their training camp roster this spring after an offseason overhaul following an 89-victory 2018 that still left them eight games out of the playoffs.
“I’ve been studying mugs of these guys to get a feeling. It’s going to be a little bit different camp with all the new people,” manager Scott Servais said Monday. “A lot of educating to do. Name tags would be good. Mandatory wear your jersey out there with the name on the back.”
The most notable new face is left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who is expected to start one of the two games the Mariners will play in his native Japan. Seattle reported to spring training a day earlier than most to prepare for the season-opening series against Oakland in Tokyo on March 20-21.
Kikuchi, who signed a four-year, $56 million contract in the offseason, has been in camp about a week and already thrown several times.
“I did get a chance to see Kikuchi throw a bullpen yesterday. I really liked it,” Servais said. “I like how he is going about it. This time of spring, you are not looking for top velocity or the crispness to the breaking balls. But his approach to how he is going about it has been fantastic.”
Eighteen of the 34 pitchers in camp are new, Servais estimated, and pitching coach Paul Davis also joined the staff after spending the last six years in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, most recently as the manager of the pitching analytics.
“With the new coaches and new players, I’m so happy when they come up and introduce themselves to me,” Servais said.
New position players include outfielders Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana, Mallex Smith and, for now, DH Edwin Encarnacion. Dee Gordon, who was moved to center field last season, will return to his natural position at second base.
The bullpen composition is the least known quantity entering spring training following the trade of closer Edwin Diaz, who with Robinson Cano was dealt to the Mets for Bruce and others. Diaz saved a franchise-record and AL-high 57 games last season.
Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin and Zac Rosscup signed one-year contracts as free agents this winter to join Shawn Armstrong, Chasen Bradford and Dan Altavilla. Gerson Bautista was acquired in the Bruce trade.
“We traded a lot of guys with established roles at the back end of the bullpen, so it creates a lot of opportunity for guys coming in,” Servais said.
“We certainly have stuff. We have guys that throw hard and have good breaking balls. The biggest thing we have to offer is opportunity. Who takes it and runs with it, we’ll find out.”