DENVER — At field level, the vast expanse of green, deftly cut into a diamond pattern, seems more like the fairway of a par 4.
From the stands, the outfield grass seems unending, making the infield dirt seem small enough to be Little League proportions.
While much is made of extra distance and carry on fly balls hit in the altitude of the “Mile High City,” the sheer area of the outfield at Coors Field can lead to just as many hits tallied and runs scored as the extra distance provided by the field being at 5,200 feet above sea level.
Per a study in 2014, the total playing area in fair territory is 2.66 acres, which is most of any park in baseball.
The deepest part of the Coors is 428 feet from home plate where the left field wall angles against the center field wall. The center field fence is 415 feet from home while the left field corner is 347 feet and the right field corner is 350 feet. By comparison, T-Mobile Park is 331 feet to left field, 401 feet to center and 326 feet to right field.
While those extra feet might not seem like a lot, they can feel like miles for an outfielder chasing a shot to the gap or a blooper in front of him.
“There’s a lot of green grass out there, and you have to know balls are going to fall in,” manager Scott Servais said.
Of the Mariners three starting outfielders Tuesday night, only right fielder Mitch Haniger had played in an MLB game at Coors Field. Center fielder Jarred Kelenic played two innings of the recent Futures game in left field, while Shed Long Jr., who only recently started playing outfield on a consistent basis last season, was playing his first game in Denver.
“You can play it a couple different ways,” Haniger said. “You can play super deep, but then you’re going to give up a lot of the little bloopers. I think our plan is just to pinch the gaps and make sure we get to balls as quick as possible and keep them from getting extra bases.”
Haniger admitted that backing up fellow outfielders is even difficult.
“It’s big,” he said. “There’s nothing really like it.”
Kelenic took plenty of fly balls during the Futures game workouts. He relished the opportunity.
“It’s gonna be fun because I like running around trying to make a long catch …, running for one deep in the gap,” he said. “You can’t do anything stupid.”
Something stupid would be allowing a single to get by you and roll to the wall, which is a triple for most players. Cutting off line drives into the gap on one or two bounces is imperative.
Long was making his 33rd career start in left field, getting the nod over career outfielder Dillon Thomas. Servais admitted they went with Long’s offensive potential, knowing they could use Thomas as a defensive replacement.
His philosophy for Coors remained unchanged from other stadiums.
“Catch what you can catch,” he said. “Don’t try to catch everything. You can’t cover everything.”
It’s a simple philosophy that speaks to being an outfielder. Though Long doesn’t think of himself in that way.
“I’m an athlete playing wherever I need to be to get it done,” he said. “But I mean day by day, I feel better out there. I’m getting my work in and just getting more comfortable.”
All three outfielders were in agreement that they prefer hitting at Coors Field over playing in the field.
“As a hitter you love it,” Long said. “As a pitcher and a defensive (player), you hate it.”
The Mariners announced the signing of 15 draft picks Tuesday afternoon. The highest of those picks was their fourth-round selection, right-handed pitcher Bryce Miller out of Texas A&M. He reportedly received a $400,000 signing bonus, which is $112,000 below slot value for the pick. The Mariners are expected to use that money to sign their third-round pick Michael Morales, a right-handed pitcher out of East Pennsboro High School in Enola, Pennsylvania.
All 15 players announced were college players, several of whom were seniors and had no choice but to sign.
Per an MLB source, the Mariners have reached verbal agreements with their top three picks — catcher Harry Ford, shortstop Edwin Arroyo and Morales — and are awaiting their physicals. All three players are expected to be in Seattle for the upcoming series with the A’s to sign their contracts.
- First baseman Evan White is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip in the next two days. The procedure will be performed by Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd who is a renowned hip specialist at the Nashville Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center.
- Right-hander Justin Dunn (shoulder strain) will pitch off the mound for the first time during the upcoming homestand.
- Left-hander Justus Sheffield (left forearm strain, oblique strain) has resumed playing light catch.