Mariners manager Scott Servais discusses when he might make a change from a slumping hitter. Hint: It's not after 15 games.
So when is a slow start become something more? When does a manager or a team look at a player, who is scuffling and say: “This something beyond a slump or bad luck and it’s time to make a change.”
Well, it isn’t now for manager Scott Servais. With the Mariners having played 15 games coming into Wednesday’s homestand finale, now isn’t the time when he will make major decisions or changes with his hitters who have been scuffling to start the season.
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Seattle certainly has a few candidates: specifically first baseman Danny Valencia, outfielder Leonys Martin and catcher Mike Zunino.
While there is a clamoring for hot-hitting Taylor Motter to take over at first base when Jean Segura returns from the disabled list, it’s unlikely that will happen immediately. The Mariners will find ways to keep Motter’s bat in the lineup but won’t just give up on a veteran like Valencia. Martin has already seen his playing time dwindle slightly with Guillermo Heredia getting starts when there is a left-handed starter on the mound, but it seems unlikely he will be relegated to the fourth outfielder.
There will be no major role shifts just yet.
Like most people in baseball, Servais can’t be emotionally reactive to brief spans of hitless games from certain players. There is a level of patience and pragmatism that must override. Still, there is a threshold that can be reached where something must be done.
“Fifteen games is not a fair judgment,” Servais said. “Is it 30 games in? Then you say ok, ‘here’s where it’s at — this guy hasn’t gotten it going, do we need to do things roster-wise or lineup-wise?’ Sometimes there is no day. You can say it’s the 30-day mark and all of the sudden you start to see signs of a guy coming out of it. It’s not often it’s the big home run or the double off the wall or anything like that. Often times it’s just good at-bats, a guy has an 8, 10, 12-pitch at-bat and he starts to find something and it grows for there. Other times it’s the three-hopper up the middle or the bloop that falls in that starts to get things going. I’ve seen a few of the bloops and the balls up the middle and I think, ‘ok, now it’s going to switch.’ And it hasn’t quite yet. Fifteen games is too early.”
So for those waiting for the shift in roles for players, it won’t happen immediately. Servais is willing and hopeful that Martin and Valencia find their ways out of their slumps.
“Especially with guys that have been in the league for a while, let them get a feel for where they are at,” he said. “Again, is 30 the drop dead date? No.”
But not before 30?
“No, you got to let it play out,” he said.
If, or when, Servais or the organization were to decide to make a change with Valencia or Martin, it would be easier to do because of the depth options, specifically Motter, Heredia and even Ben Gamel and Boog Powell in Class AAA Tacoma.
But there’s a difference at catcher. The Mariners are unlikely to shift roles with Zunino and his backup Carlos Ruiz. At age 38, Ruiz can’t play every day. Servais also isn’t displeased with Zunino’s at-bats as some might expect.
“I do think with his swings — it’s not like he’s feeling for the ball,” Servais said. “It’s aggressive. It’s an attacking swing. He’s just underneath some balls. I’d like to turn some of those into line drives. He would as well. I don’t think the at-bats have been god-awful by any means. I don’t think the results have been great. He’s worked himself into some decent counts and he’s gotten some fastballs to hit and he hasn’t hit them. that happens over stretches. I certainly would like to see him pick it up. When he starts adding punch to the bottom of our lineup, now it’s a really, really good lineup. And he’s got that kind of ability.”
The early at-bats are not comparable to September of last season when Zunino was really struggling again.
“No, no, this is different,” Servais said. “He’s in a different spot. He’s seeing the ball better. The timing is better. Again, he’s human. It’s hard to hit a baseball. You are going to swing at some bad pitches once in a while. Guys on the other team get paid too. But I like his at-bats. I like his process. The results? I’m sure he would like to have a few more hits. He’ll get there. I do feel good about him and the process he’s made. I’m not seeing the same type of at-bat we saw in September.”
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On this day in Mariners’ history
1990 – Edgar Martinez goes 3×4 with two doubles in his first start of the year. Never the less, the Mariners lose 5-2 at Oakland.
1998 – The Mariners complete its first-ever, four-game sweep of Minnesota with a 7-4 victory in the Metrodome.
2001 – Kazuhiro Sasaki logs his 8th save in April, setting a new Mariners record for saves in the month of April.
2002 – Jeff Cirillo ties a Major League record with his 99th consecutive errorless game at third base.
2012 – Felix Hernandez struck out 12 in 8.0 shutout innings, but the Mariners lost 2-1 when the Cleveland Indians scored a pair of runs off closer Brandon League in the top of the 9th inning.
2014 – The Mariners are limited to 2 hits in a CG shutout by Miami Marlins starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez. Dustin Ackely led off the 6th inning with a single to break up the perfect game and Mike Zunino doubled in the 9th inning to account for the Mariners hits in the 7-0 loss in Miami.
2015 – Mariners overcome a pair of five-run deficits–the last a 10-5 hole heading into the 7th–to defeat the Texas Rangers 11-10…Nelson Cruz homered twice in the game and recorded a walk-off single with the bases loaded and 2 out in the 9th, finishing the game going 3-for-6 with 5 RBIs.
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