PEORIA, Ariz. — As the Mariners’ pitchers and catchers, along with the coaching staff, prepared for their first workout of 2021 spring training, manager Scott Servais couldn’t help but feel something was missing.
Given the COVID-19 restrictions, there are a lot of things missing from a typical spring training. But one of Servais’ favorite daily activities — the morning team meeting featuring player introductions, interviews and interactions — has been scuttled due to social distancing and limits on gatherings.
“We really enjoy the morning meetings,” he said Thursday. “It’s an opportunity to kind of get our culture ingrained. It’s an opportunity where players get to learn from each other, know about each other and learn about everybody’s path to get in that room.
“But I can’t jam 100 people in the locker room. I can’t do it by protocol. I’m really going to miss that. Our players are going to miss it. Staff is going to miss it. We’ve got to find other ways to get to know our guys and where they’re all at, so that’ll change it a little bit.”
Servais thought about trying to do it on the field, but that also wouldn’t work. He is still taking suggestions to fil that void.
“We’re trying to come up with some creative ideas,” he said. “One of the coaches threw something at me today that we might incorporate, just something to do before we go to stretch every day once the whole team gets in here. Spring training needs to be fun. It’s an exciting time. You get an opportunity for the whole organization — everybody around our big league, the staff and players to be together.”
What else is different?
The workouts will be more spread out to meet distancing requirements and will use all of their side of the complex.
“Typically all the bullpens are thrown up at the major league kind of ‘six pack’ area, they’ll be spread out today,” he said. “We’ll use the minor league side and the big league side at the same time. We’ll never have more than two guys throwing at a time (in the same area).”
Once spring training games start, teams can “roll” the innings after pitchers reach certain number of pitches even if there is only one out. Some games can also go seven innings based on pitching available. The Mariners have 28 Cactus League games scheduled with an off day after their first game and an off day before their last game. That means 26 games in 26 days.
“We tried to get that adjusted, but Major League Baseball didn’t work with us kindly on that,” he said. “We’ll get through it. I will be very cautious with playing time early on with our regulars. We have 50 days in this camp. We have time. It’s a great opportunity for young players. You will see a lot of our young prospects play a lot in this camp.”
Minor league schedules announced
Major League Baseball announced the schedules for the 2021 Minor League Baseball season under the recently reduced and reorganized system, touting a revamped schedule that “benefits players, clubs and fans.”
“This schedule represents a big step forward for our player development system,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “Under this new alignment and format, travel will be significantly reduced for players and coaches, with an increase in off days. We hope that these new health and wellness improvements will help players in their path to the big leagues.”
The Triple-A season will begin April 6 with teams scheduled for 142 games with leaguewide off days every Wednesday during the season. The Tacoma Rainiers, the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, will participate in the 10-team Triple-A West division. Tacoma will open the season at Cheney Stadium with a six-game series vs. Oklahoma City.
The Rainiers are working with local government agencies in hopes of eventually allowing fans to attend games.
Teams at the Double-A and A levels will play 120 games with their seasons starting on May 4 and Mondays serving as a universal day off for those levels. Those players destined for those levels will report to spring training on April 1. The Arkansas Travelers will play in the 10-team Double-A Central league featuring six-game series vs. opponents. They open the season with a 12-game homestand where a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend.
The Everett AquaSox will play in the six-team High-A West League. The Modesto Nuts will play in the eight-team Low-A West League. Neither affiliate will be allowed to have fans attend to start the season.
Not every pitcher on the Mariners’ spring training roster reported for a physical Wednesday. Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that three pitchers were delayed. One of those three pitchers is projected closer Rafael Montero.
“We think it will be resolved in the next couple of days,” Dipoto said. “We are anticipating having two of them arriving as early as tomorrow with the third arriving before the weekend, the third being Rafael Montero. Winter weather and visa issues slowed a couple of guys down.”
All three will have to pass COVID-19 intake protocols before taking their required physicals.
Giles contract details reported
Reliever Ken Giles took his physical Wednesday and will continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery in Arizona. The team has yet to officially announce his signing. He is expected to be placed on the 60-day injured list since he won’t pitch this season.
MLB sources confirmed the reported contract details for Giles. He will receive a two-year, $7 million contract. He will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and a $1 million salary for 2021. In 2022, he will earn $5 million. The contract also includes a $9.5 million club option for 2023 with a $500,000 buyout.