MESA, Ariz. — The Mariners announced that the 2021 alternate training site will be held at T-Mobile Park.
A year ago, the Mariners held their alternate training site, which ran from July through September, at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
But with the unpredictable weather of the Pacific Northwest in April, the Mariners opted to have their players train at the stadium to take advantage of the retractable roof.
“I heard it rains up in Seattle, so we have a roof there,” Mariners manager Scott Servais deadpanned before chuckling at his own joke. “So I think from a workout standpoint it made more sense to make sure that you keep those guys to where you’re not dealing with the elements quite as much. It will have its challenges.”
The biggest challenge is the need for additional clubhouse/locker-room space as well as timing of the workouts. Players who are at the alternate site are not allowed to be using the facility at the same time as players on the MLB active roster. So the players who are relegated to the alternate site will have to work at varied times based on the big league team’s usage of the park.
“They’ll be in there at kind of odd times,” Servais said. “They will be in there early in the morning when we have a night game, and if we have a day game, they could be in there later or early in the evening. When we go on the road, it’s all opened up at that point. It just made the most sense. Just from, you know, logistics, and the weather and the facility and everything included to just have the guys at T-Mobile.”
Servais wasn’t sure how many players they will send to the alternate training site but mentioned around 20-24 players.
But the Mariners are facing a dilemma. The lack of numbers at the ATS won’t allow for more than just a handful of simulated games per week. And with no team within driving distance to play against, sim games or modified intrasquad scrimmages will be the only game reps available. In the Bay Area, the Giants and A’s plan to play four games per week against each other at their alternate training site.
“We don’t have that luxury,” Servais said. “You have to stay close enough to the major league team within driving distance and certainly we don’t have a team close enough up in the Pacific Northwest, so it will create a few more challenges but again. COVID has created all kinds of challenges for everybody, so we’ll work through it. We’ll have our guys ready. There will still be a taxi squad travel with us when we take a road trip, which will have four or five players there so that if something happened you could activate them and plug them out into your roster.
The Mariners are trying to decide if its more beneficial for prospects such as Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic, Cal Raleigh and Logan Gilbert to remain in Arizona where there will be minor league spring training games starting about mid-April.
“We are trying to work through that and understand who would benefit more from being down here versus who should be at the alternate site and just working out,” Servais said. “Certainly experience level is a factor. I would tend to think it might be better, more beneficial for the younger players to stay down here and play games. But we’ll see how it all plays out.”
The Mariners are trying to schedule games against other teams in Arizona for that two-week period, using players who were in MLB camp but didn’t make the opening-day roster.
“Every organization is in the same spot that we’re in. They’re sending guys out of major league camp that are game ready,” Servais said. “So you don’t want to take the total step back and wait two or three weeks before all of your minor league players are built up to being game ready. I think a lot of organizations are kind of trying to schedule games down here as soon as we leave with some of the players that will stay behind.”
When will players get vaccinated?
With restrictions on who can receive COVID vaccinations opening up and available to anyone over age 16 after May 1, Servais was asked about his players signing up to receive the vaccine. He has said often that they won’t jump the line to get them. But will they get in line now?
Servais had not had a team meeting or discussion with his players yet. The state of Arizona opened up vaccine availability for anyone over the age of 16 last week.
“It is an individual decision whether people want to go ahead and get the vaccine or not,” he said. “We just have to wait and see how that plays out and when it might be accessible to our players. If our players want to get one because they are eligible now down here in Arizona, you’d have to get the second shot obviously probably up in Washington or however our schedule lined up. So it’s got some logistical challenges there, but again it’s an individual decision.”
- Kyle Lewis was held out of the lineup for another day with a sore left knee as a precaution. Lewis banged it against the wall in a game on Monday.
“It would’ve been a DH game anyway,” Servais said. “We decided to give him another day. We’ve got the night games back-to-back at home here on Friday and Saturday. We expect him to be in the lineup tomorrow.”
- Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will pitch in a B game on Friday afternoon at the Mariners’ complex. Servais wasn’t certain whether it would be a simulated game or if another team would come in to play the game.
- The Mariners announced that they have sold out of the 9,000 tickets available for opening night on April 1 vs. the Giants at T-Mobile Park.
There are tickets still available for the 10 remaining games in the first two homestands of the 2021 season, including: San Francisco Giants, April 2-3; Chicago White Sox, April 5-7; Houston Astros, April 16-18; Los Angeles Dodgers, April 19-20.
Those tickets are on sale at Mariners.com/tickets. They will only be available in pods of 1-6 fans who are members of the same household.