The three-day hiatus was unexpected but not entirely unwelcome.
The first day was definitely beneficial after an emotional road trip that featured a game being postponed in protest and three trades that sent four teammates to new teams.
Now, the Mariners are ready to get back to playing baseball games in this final month of the two-month 2020 season.
On Friday, the Mariners will open a four-game series against the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park. It will be their first game since Monday. Their three-game series with the A’s was postponed when a member of Oakland’s traveling party in Houston tested positive for COVID-19. The A’s announced Thursday that it was right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden.
The Mariners have a different look to their active roster and lineup with the addition of infielder Ty France and catcher Luis Torrens, who were acquired from the Padres in one of those three trades, and right-handed pitcher Walker Lockett, who was claimed off waivers from the Mets. They will also welcome back right-hander Kendall Graveman, who was activated from the injured list and will pitch in a relief role due to health concerns after a career spent as a starting pitcher.
Following the tumultuous road trip, Mariners manager Scott Servais gave his team a day off Tuesday. The team returned to T-Mobile Park for short workouts on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. It allowed the new faces to meet their new teammates.
“We are ready to get back after it,” Servais said in a video media call after the team’s workout. “It’s been a weird couple of days but stuff happens. I think we needed just one day (off).”
One was good, three was a little too much.
“Our guys are anxious to get back out there,” he said. “It’s something that you can’t control, so it’s no reason to fret about it and worry about it. We are looking forward to the stretch run with our team. Certainly after the trading deadline and picking up a few guys, I’m curious to see how that plays out.”
France and Torrens are expected to play extensively in these last 23 games and will be in Friday’s lineup.
France, 26, was in the middle of the Padres’ fantasy-football draft in a hotel in Denver on Saturday when he and Torrens were summoned by Padres manager Jayce Tingler. They went to Tingler’s hotel room where they called general manager A.J. Preller and were informed they’d been traded to the Mariners along with prized outfield prospect Taylor Trammell (pronounced “truh-MELL) and reliever Andres Munoz.
“This is definitely a crazy experience,” France said. “We just played the Mariners not too long ago. To be on one side and flipping over, it hasn’t really hit me yet.”
The fantasy draft suddenly lost its importance.
“Honestly with the fantasy draft, after getting that news, it was all kind of a blur, so I don’t even really remember how the draft went,” he said. “Thankfully I had two other guys on my team helping me out. They kind of took over for me. Looking at the lineup, we look all right.”
He does remember the phone call with Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who told France about how often he’d tried to acquire him from the Padres the past two years.
“To feel wanted like that is pretty cool,” France said. “For him to tell me I’m going to come in and be in the lineup right away and hopefully make an impact, that was huge for me. It definitely helps make the transition easier.”
With hitting as his primary tool for success, France will get everyday at-bats, but he likely won’t be at the same position every day. He will see time at designated hitter along with first base, third base and second base. The Padres had France catching for a brief spell and considered playing him in left field.
“We’ll move him around,” Servais said. “He has positional flexibility. We’ll keep moving guys around. You probably won’t see a set lineup too many days in a row.”
France just wants to play every day.
“For me, third base is home, but over the last couple years I’ve bounced around from first to third, to second, I’ve caught,” he said. “I am definitely most comfortable with third, but I don’t really consider any one position to be my set position. I’ve embraced the utility role and whatever they need me to do here, I’m more than willing to do.”
Torrens will handle the bulk of the catching duties for the rest of the season with Joe Odom serving as his backup. Torrens spent these past two workouts trying to get to know an entire pitching staff. Usually a catcher will have weeks to learn his pitchers.
“It all starts with that first conversation,” Torrens said through Mariners interpreter Ian Kraft. “As time goes on, I’m continuing to study every pitcher every day and every night and continue to learn them, so I can help them be as good as they can be.”
Two days is better than no days. Torrens caught almost every pitcher briefly in the workouts.
“It’s been a huge help-out for him,” Servais said. “I’ve been in that spot where you get traded midseason, it’s really challenging. He was trying to catch as many guys as he can here in a couple days. I’ve been really impressed by him.”
Lockett, 26, was picked up off waivers after being designated for assignment by the Mets following the game on Aug. 28 in which he pitched two scoreless innings of relief. He will bring depth to the bullpen with Dan Altavilla, Austin Adams and Taylor Williams traded.
Graveman will be an interesting addition to the bullpen. He started the season in the Mariners’ rotation and seemed primed for a comeback year after missing the past two seasons due to elbow surgery. But a benign bone tumor in his neck, which was diagnosed last year, caused discomfort as he pitched, forcing him to the injured list and several appointments with spine specialists.
Graveman and the Mariners believe that a switch to one- or two-inning stints could be a solution for the short term and possibly the future. Graveman was emotionally devastated discussing the tumor and the inability to have surgery to provide relief. This new role has provided optimism.
“He’s really looking forward to it,” Servais said. “He just wants to contribute and be part of the team. When you’re hurt for as long as he’s been down with the Tommy John and now the neck thing, you just don’t feel like you’re a part of anything, unless you’re contributing. And that’s how he’s wired.”
Graveman has made a few relief appearances in the Mariners’ intrasquad games in Tacoma in preparation.
“It will all depend on how he bounces back and so far it’s been pretty good,” Servais said. “He’s bounced back. I’m not saying he’s ready to go the next day, but with a day off, you can get him back out there after that.”
M’s claim former first rounder
Following Dipoto’s philosophy of always taking a chance on an available former first-round draft pick, the Mariners claimed outfielder Phil Ervin, who was the No. 27 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Samford University, off waivers from the Reds.
Ervin, 28, was designated for assignment by Cincinnati on Aug. 28 after hitting .086 (3 for 35) with five runs scored, a walk and a stolen base in 19 games with the Reds this season.
He appeared in parts of four MLB seasons with the Reds, playing all three outfield positions and posting a .250/.320/.415 with 23 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs, 64 RBI, 48 walks and 15 stolen bases in 219 career games.
Pitching probables for Ranger series
- Friday, 6:10 p.m. — Yusei Kikuchi (LHP) vs. Kyle Cody (RHP)
- Saturday, 6:10 p.m. — Justus Sheffield (LHP) vs. Kyle Gibson (RHP)
- Sunday, 1:10 p.m. — Justin Dunn (RHP) vs. Jordan Lyles (RHP)
- Monday, 1:10 p.m. — Marco Gonzales (LHP) vs. Kolby Allard (LHP)