With 23 games remaining in the 2020 season the Mariners want to see their recent acquisitions from the Padres — infielder Ty France and catcher Luis Torrens — play extensively. Add in the return of Dylan Moore, who was an everyday player, from the injured list, it was going to cost a roster spot for at least one player and playing time for others.
“I need to be more creative putting lineups together,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said in his pregame video session Friday. “We need to really take advantage of the games that we have left in the season with the players that we have, and the ones we’ve just acquired. Obviously, we’ll be creative and keep all avenues open and giving these guys opportunities at different spots.”
Utility player Tim Lopes was the roster casualty with Moore’s return from a strained tendon in his right wrist. Lopes was optioned to the alternate training site in Tacoma. He had a .240/.283/.340 slash line with a homer, 10 RBI and five stolen bases. While he’s had some success in the utility role, Moore and Sam Haggerty, a switch-hitter, have simply played better than Lopes. France is also an infielder that will see time at third base, second base, first base and designated hitter.
Even with Lopes gone, there is still a glut of infielders who will likely lose playing time with France expected to play on a daily basis.
The players that could lose the most playing time are second basemen Shed Long Jr. and Dee Strange-Gordon.
In Friday night’s return to action, after the last three games with the A’s were postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test, Moore got the start at second base despite right-hander Kyle Cody starting on the mound. Before going on the IL, Moore had a .282/.364/.538 slash line with five doubles, five homers, 10 RBI and six stolen bases in 21 games — most of them coming as an outfielder.
“You’re gonna probably see a little bit more of him at second base,” Servais said. “He will still play some outfield and cover up a number of different positions for us, but he’s in there at second tonight. “
The Mariners decided last offseason that Long would take over as the everyday second baseman with Strange-Gordon moving to a bench role. After acquiring Long before the 2019 season and watching him put together a strong final 20 games to close it out with a .289/.337/.518 slash line with five doubles, a triple, four homers and 10 RBI in the leadoff spot. The Mariners wanted to see what he could do with everyday playing in a full season. There is no full season and there has been no carry over from last September. Long played himself into the lost playing time, posting a .170/.238/.295 slash line with five doubles, three homers, eight RBI, four stolen bases, 10 walks and 34 strikeouts while not playing with much consistency at second base.
“I had an opportunity to sit down with Shed yesterday (Thursday) and kind of explained what the new additions on the ballclub mean,” Servais said. “You might see Shed play a little left field here and there, you’ll obviously still see him some at second base, you might see him DH some. Looking at our roster and where we’re at, it might be that it affects Shed.”
That doesn’t mean that the Mariners have given up on Long.
“Shed is still a very young player,” Servais said. “I know the first 30-some games in the season maybe didn’t go as he’d hoped offensively, but there’s still a lot to like, and what he brings. But it’s giving other guys maybe more of an opportunity that have performed a little bit better to this point this season.”
In a 162-game season, Long could’ve continued to work through the early slump. But he doesn’t have that opportunity in such a shortened season.
“When you don’t have track record, it becomes what are you doing, how are you making adjustments, how are you performing on an everyday basis and then it becomes competitive, it’s professional baseball,” Servais said. “It’s the do-good league. If you produce, you get more chances. If you do good, you can play more. A lot of our young guys, they’ve got an opportunity. Some guys have taken it and run with it, some guys have struggled a little bit. It doesn’t mean it’s over for them by any means. It just means they’ve got to step back, make a few adjustments and earn their time again.”
Servais channeled his inner-Pete Carroll.
“Competition is a really good thing,” he said. “I don’t think people really understand that. Everybody says, he’s the guy, he’s going get this opportunity, we’re just going go with him. Competition is great. It really brings out the best in people.”
Strange-Gordon has appeared in 21 games this season, starting 17 with a .190/.242/.207 slash line with a double, an RBI, a stolen base and 12 strikeouts. A free agent after this season, he’ll likely play even less in the final 23 games, perhaps giving J.P. Crawford a day off.
A different sort of debut
There was a Major League Baseball debut on Friday night at T-Mobile and he wasn’t a member of the Rangers or Mariners.
Kyle McCrady, a native of Longview and a Mark Morris High School grad, made his MLB umpiring debut, serving as the third-base umpire. He was called up to work the entire series at T-Mobile Park.
McCrady has been umpiring intrasquad games in Tacoma to stay ready for this opportunity. He played baseball at Lower Columbia College before embarking on an umpiring career.