Mariners manager Scott Servais discussed some changes to the team's defensive alignment in the infield. Also in the post are game notes and gameday information.

Share story

The Mariners are using defensive infield shifts in every Cactus League game and tracking them with a plus-minus system. It’s preparation for this season when the team is expected to employ more shifts than in previous years. General manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are proponents of the change based on analytics.

How do they grade the shifts?

“To get a plus, you’re hitting into the shift and we’re in the right spots,” Servais said. “To get a minus, if we’d just have been playing old-school straight-up, we’d have made the play. Obviously we were not in that position, so we didn’t make the play. That’s how I look at it.”

But this year’s version of “straight-up” has been changed based on analytical data.

“Our straight-up is a little different then what you guys will remember,” Servais said. “We’re doing some different things when we don’t have data on hitters, so the off infielder is a little more up the middle than what you’ve typically seen though the years.”

The “off infielder” would be the second baseman if a right-handed hitter is batting and the shortstop if a left-handed hitter is batting. The logic is simple — there are more balls hit up the middle on the ground than to the opposite field.

“Why not put them where the balls go the majority of the time?” Servais said. “There is a formula and percentages at the big-league level, but our analytics guys have done a great job. I have a copy every day — all of us do on the bench — based on our starting pitchers and guys that have track record. You’re basically pulling out the sheet, it’s color coded, the dots are there where it’s supposed to be and we’re going off that. The guys upstairs have done a really nice job.”

How much up the middle will the off infielder play?

“About three steps,” Servais said.

This won’t just be just at the big-league level, where there are advanced scouting reports and volumes of data.

“You’re going to see it throughout our system,” he said. “You’re going to see our minor-league kids doing it. It’s something I believe in. Some organizations do it top to bottom. Oakland does it. Houston does it. When you go out and watch hundreds of minor-league games like I have and they have no data there and they’re doing it and it’s working, you should. It’s something we’ve played around with in the past, and we’ll be doing it this year as well.”

 

Also

*** Stefen Romero suffered a deep knee bruise from a line drive in Thursday’s game (video below). The ball then bounced to second base, where shortstop Tyler Smith stepped on the bag and fired back to first for a double play has been dubbed “The knee-6-3 double play” by first-base coach Casey Candaele.

*** Dae-Ho Lee was scheduled to return to camp Friday after being approved for his work visa. He likely will be the lineup for  Saturday’s game against the Angels at Peoria Stadium.

*** Nelson Cruz also will see his first Cactus League action Saturday at designated hitter. The big slugger has been held out of competition because of a sore left knee. He’s tired of watching from the dugout.

“I’m ready to play,” Cruz said.

Cruz has made his feelings known to Servais, who is following the advice of the training staff.

“He wants to get going and work on his timing and see where he’s at in the batter’s box,” Servais said. “He’ll be fine. I think there’ll be a couple DH days and then we’ll get him out in the field. It won’t be back to back days for a while. We’ll give him day-on, day-off-type thing. Probably 5-6 days into it once his playing schedule starts, he’ll be in the outfield.”

*** Lefty Mike Montgomery, who underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his neck, played catch Thursday. He will continue to throw and hopes to throw a bullpen session or live batting practice session Sunday.

*** Because of his injury history, lefty Danny Hultzen is getting an added day of rest in between his off-the-mound throwing sessions. Last spring, Hultzen experienced arm and shoulder fatigue at the end of spring training. He admitted to pushing himself too hard because he felt so strong. He could throw in a game soon.

“We’re giving him a little more rest between his bullpens and sides,” Servais said.  “I would think maybe early next week sometime — an inning. He’s playing catch every day and doing his thing. We’re just trying to spread it out. It’s about how you finish this marathon with him, not how you start it. He’s looked very good. I’m excited about it. He’s got stuff, there’s no doubt about it. We’re just trying to get him to relax a little bit. Everybody knows he’s a great kid. Nobody tries harder or has been through more than he has. My standing joke when I walk by him is to just smile.”

 

Game reserves and expected pitchers

Pitchers:

  • 48 Mayckol Guaipe ……………………… RHP
  • 57 Cody Martin …………………………… RHP
  • 59 David Rollins…………………………… LHP
  • 61  Adrian Sampson …………………….. RHP
  • 62  Joel Peralta……………………………. RHP
  • 80 Kraig Sitton*……………………………. LHP
  • 86 Charles Brewer* …………………….. RHP

 

Infielders:

  • 5 Ed Lucas…………………………………. INF
  • 10 Jesus Montero …………………………. INF
  • 54 Benji Gonzalez (S)……………………. INF
  • 71 Tyler Smith ……………………………… INF
  • 84  Drew Jackson*…………………………. INF
  • 85  Tim Lopes* ……………………………… INF

Outfielders:

  • 6 Mike Baxter (L) …………………………. OF
  • 40 Boog Powell (L) ………………………… OF
  • 64 Guillermo Heredia……………………… OF
  • 73 Dario Pizzano (L) ………………………. OF
  • 99 Daniel Robertson ………………………. OF

Catchers:

  • 28 Steve Baron ……………………………….. C
  • 52 Steve Lerud (L) …………………………… C
  • 72 Marcus Littlewood (S)………………….. C

 

Game notes