A few more notes from Mariners' FanFest: After watching his younger brother participate in the postseason, Kyle Seager is ready for the Mariners to do the same.
In the battle of the Seager brothers’ baseball accomplishments, Kyle always has held the lead over younger Corey, a phenom for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kyle Seager, the Mariners’ third baseman, has four consecutive seasons of 20 homers or more and three out of four seasons with more than 80 RBI, an All-Star appearance, a Gold Glove award and a seven-year, $100 million contract.
Meanwhile, Corey Seager has, as Kyle often jokes, a movie-star crop of hair on his head and about six inches of height on his older brother, along with vast potential to be even better on the field than Kyle. Corey hit .357 with a whopping .956 on-base plus slugging percentage in 27 games with the Dodgers late in the 2015 season.
But with that late call-up and ascension to the Dodgers’ starting shortstop job, Corey has accomplished something Kyle has yet to do in his baseball career — play in postseason games.
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While the Dodgers played the Mets in the National League Division Series and Corey played in all five games — starting four — Kyle could only watch in envy.
“He’s made me a little jealous,” Kyle admitted last weekend during Mariners FanFest at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have had only one winning season — 2014 — during Kyle’s time with the big-league club.
“At this point, it really comes down to winning,” he said. “You have to do whatever you can to win. You hear guys talk about that and all this other stuff, but it’s real. The last few years, ever since I’ve been up here, we haven’t been in the postseason. We were really close the one year, but that’s something I’ve really gotten a taste for. Watching my brother in the postseason was really cool. And I’d like to join him.”
The Mariners were expected to be there last season but flailed their way to a 76-86 record that led to the firing of general manager Jack Zduriencik and the dismissal of manager Lloyd McClendon.
Those changes have led to an overhaul to the roster and coaching staff.
“It’s pretty exciting to see the transformation the team has taken,” Seager said. “You understand the business side of this. Ultimately we’re trying to win, and unfortunately we haven’t done that yet. You understand that.”
Seager met with new general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais this offseason and listened to their philosophies about building a different culture around the team, constructing a roster and changing the philosophy on hitting and pitching.
Their “control the zone” idea isn’t new to baseball or even the Mariners, but it’s being emphasized at a different level. Even a player as accomplished as Seager understands the need to buy into it.
“I’m going to have to get better at it, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s definitely been an influence that they’re talking about. And it makes sense. Everything they’re saying makes sense. You look at the ballpark and everything — the plan seems smart. Obviously it’s easier said than done, but (Dipoto) has done a lot. He’s has been very active in that regard. It’s a big ballpark. It’s hard to kind of rely on the home runs.”
Iannetta itching to bounce back at the plate
Catcher Chris Iannetta winces when asked about his hitting in 2015, particularly the miserable start that made his overall numbers look awful. Iannetta hit .188 with a .628 OPS in 92 games with the Angels.
“It was just bad,” he said. “I can’t make any excuse for it. I don’t really know what happened. The only thing I can kind of put a finger on is I tried to do a little too much. Going into two years ago, I made a conscious effort to be a little more aggressive, and it really paid off. I had a really good year. And I tried to make another little more incremental progress by being even more aggressive, and it was too much.”
Iannetta had a career .375 on-base percentage entering 2015, including .373 in 2014. It was .288 last season
“I got away from being myself, which is being patient at the plate, getting a good pitch to hit,” he said. “I found myself in a lot of 1-2 and 0-2 counts last year because I was swinging at marginal pitches that I don’t normally swing at. It took me a while to get out of that. It took me a while to get back to being the player that I am — it’s seeing a lot of pitches and getting on base.”
After starting 5 for 54 in March and April, Iannetta tried to fight back. He had some solid stretches.
“I prided myself in getting out of it and doing well for the majority of the season,” he said. “I hit a little hiccup in the end of July and August, which was normal. If you play a whole season, it’s going to happen. But you add that to the beginning of the year, and you hit .188. The numbers were terrible. I was embarrassed a majority of the time. But I just kind of hang my hat on the four months that I did well.”
Iannetta won’t be making that mistake again this spring. The Mariners believe he will return to his more typical career numbers that put him at a .240 hitter with an on-base percentage around .350. That kind of projection isn’t eye-popping, but it would be a massive upgrade to the production that the Mariners got from their catchers last season.
“I will just try to really stick to what I do best,” he said. “I was just trying too hard to get three hits in one at-bat, and that’s impossible.”
Furbush on the mend
Early Saturday morning before Safeco Field was overtaken by fans craving baseball, Charlie Furbush, James Paxton and Steve Cishek found some space on the outfield grass, avoiding the zipline structure and wiffle-ball home-run derby screens, to play catch.
Furbush threw from 120 feet — another step in his recovery from the tendinitis and the partial tear in his rotator cuff that put him on the disabled list July 9 and didn’t allow him to return.
“I’m feeling good,” he said.
Furbush, who lives in Seattle during the offseason, has been working out and strengthening the shoulder all offseason at Safeco Field with Paxton. He recently began his throwing program to prepare himself for spring training.
“I’ve done a ton rehab and so many dynamic shoulder-strengthening workouts all offseason,” he said. “I think it helped dramatically. When I started throwing, it just felt normal. So I kept rolling with it.”
Furbush has yet to throw off a mound. Usually Mariners’ pitchers are supposed to throw two to three bullpen sessions before spring training. The Mariners are having Furbush wait to throw off the mound. He’ll do that for the first time in Peoria, Ariz., at their spring-training complex.
“We’re taking it slow with me,” he said. “Once I get on the mound, we’ll see what I’ve got. Once we get to that point, I think I’ll have a pretty good idea of where I’m at.”
The Mariners are relying on Furbush to be their late-inning situational left-hander pitcher. It’s a role in which he flourished the past few seasons.
Mariners ink Cuban defector to a minor league contract
The Mariners signed Cuban defector Dainer Moreira to a minor-league contract.
Moreira, 32, and teammate Vladimir Gutierrez defected a year ago at the Caribbean World Series. The two players left the hotel in Puerto Rico where the Cuban national team was staying.
Moreira is a utility-infielder type with exceptional speed. He hasn’t played in a competitive game in over a year. The Mariners will bring him into minor-league minicamp and allow him to ease back from the long layoff.