Some morning musings and information from the clubhouse and meeting with manager Scott Servais, who discussed his excitement for the first workout, Felix Hernandez starting on opening day, a new pitching regimen from Mel Stottlemyre and more.
Good morning from Peoria, Arizona.
It’s officially the first day of spring training for the Seattle Mariners. Pitchers and catchers will have their first workout today. It will also be the first workout for Scott Servais as a big league manager, or really as any sort of manager. As expected, he was quite enthusiastic when he met with the media this morning.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I think everyone in the building is – players, coaches, the front office upstairs. A lot has gone into getting to this point where we are today. Everybody is anxious to get out there. I want to see players on the field. Enough talking, let’s roll.”
Every pitcher and catcher invited to camp will be on the field for workouts. There were no visa or injury issues.
“No surprises other than Felix’s hair,” Servais said with a laugh. “I thought that was outstanding.”
“Outstanding” is an interesting word for Felix Hernandez’s new look.
Asked if he’s ready to name Hernandez the opening day starter, Servais replied: “There’s a good shot. You can run with that if you want.”
Hernandez is scheduled to meet with the media after the workout to give his State of the Felix address, and possibly explain what’s going on with the top of his head and chin.
Some organizations search years for a true No. 1 starter. The Mariners have had Hernandez for a decade. It makes everything a little easier after that for a manager.
“It’s huge,” Servais said. “It’s everything. Everyone is always talking about having that No. 1 starter and we have that.”
But this No. 1 starter has something missing from his resume. And Servais wasn’t afraid to discuss it with him in the offseason.
“Felix has never thrown a pitch in the playoffs, and it’s time,” Servais said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there. And he knows that as well. For a player to have that kind of career and to not have pitched in the playoffs yet, it’s up to us to make sure we get the pieces around him and it’s up to him to pull a few guys along with him. It’s going to be a joint effort.”
New Mariners’ pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is bringing a slightly different regimen for pitchers to spring training. In past years, pitchers would throw bullpen sessions every two days as they build arm strength and stamina for the season. Stottlemyre’s plan calls for pitchers to throw bullpens every third day, giving them an extra recovery day to battle early stiffness and fatigue.
“It’s a little bit different,” Servais said. “It’s something that Mel wanted to run with. He’s had success in the past with it. It gives guys two days to bounce back from their bullpens and when they go into live BP (batting practice) as well. It will look a little different out there. Obviously there are less guys throwing every day. But it’s by design. He wants to run with it. He’s done it in the past.”
Some older players like Joaquin Benoit, Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma may have variances to their throwing program.
“Talking with those guys, they may take it a little slower as they’ve been through the rigors of spring training,” Servais said. “I trust what they have to say.”
Servais also trusts Stottlemyre, who honed his coaching style and approach over 13 years at a variety of stops at the college, minor league and big league levels.
“Every coach has his own style and personality,” Servais said. “Mel is a grinder and he is a workaholic. He’ll probably be one of the first guys here every day and one of the last to leave. He obviously comes from a long line with his family and what they’ve done in the game. His understanding of the game is top notch. The thing that’s nice about Mel is that he’s sat in a lot of different seats. He’s been a pitching coach at a number levels in the minor leagues. He’s been a coordinator. He’s been in the big leagues. His ability to relate to the players is top notch.
Stottlemyre’s father, Mel Sr., was a longtime Yankees’ pitching coach and served as the Mariners’ pitching coach in 2008 under John McClaren.
Servais made some verifications on the roles for three of his left-handed pitchers.
The versatile Vidal Nuno, who has the ability to work as a starter and a reliever, goes into spring with one role.
“I think he comes into this camp as a reliever,” Servais said. “We know what he can do as a starter, but his numbers against left-handed hitters have been really, really good. We are trying to put guys into position where they can succeed and for us to take advantage of what they do best. It seems to be what he does. He can get through an entire lineup, but facing left-handers has really been his strength.”
Nuno’s career splits:
Nuno’s ability to work multiple innings is big plus.
Servais confirmed that Mike Montgomery will work as a starting pitcher to start spring.
“He’s in here to compete to start and then we’ll go from there,” Servais said.
The “go from there” leaves some options for Seattle since Montgomery is out of minor league options and will have to be designated for assignment if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster out of spring. General manager Jerry Dipoto said they would look at Montgomery as a reliever later in the camp if he wasn’t going to make the rotation. That still plan hasn’t changed yet.
Danny Hultzen threw a bullpen session yesterday and said “my arm feels great.” He will work as a reliever this spring. It’s a major change in roles for the former No. 2 overall pick. But the Mariners hope it’s a role that will keep him and his surgically repaired shoulder healthy.
“He’ll be a reliever,” Servais said. “Fingers crossed on Danny. He’s worked his tail off to get to this point. He feels really good right now. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. Hopefully he gets through camp, whether he makes this club or he’s on a different club, we just want to get him healthy and make him feel good about it. If we can get Danny to smile and relax a little bit, he is some kind of intense competitor. He really wants it so bad.”
Hultzen won’t be limited in daily work or the throwing program. But game situations will be treated differently.
“He will be going through the PFPs (pitcher fielding practice) and the normal throwing cycles as everyone else,” Servais said. “We’ll pick our spots with him in the games and make sure he feels good. Again, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and we want to get him through the whole year.”
Fry feeling under the weather
While every pitcher and catcher expected to take the field will be out there for the first workout, young left-hander Paul Fry will be limited in his activities.
Servais said Fry hasn’t been feeling well and they will monitor him for the next few days.
Fry wasn’t certain what the issues were. After spending the offseason in Peoria and trying to add muscle and weight, he lost all that he gained and a little more in the last few weeks. Fry said he was ill in mid to late January for about a week. The weight loss and low energy were of some concern to the Mariners’ medical staff. So they are going to check him out further.
“I’m feeling a little better today,” he said. “But they just want to be careful.”
Fry was scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday, but they’ve pushed it back a day.
He was the Mariners’ minor league reliever of the year last season and is competing for the second lefthander spot in the bullpen in his first big league camp. A 17th-round pick in the 2013 draft out of St. Clair Community College, Fry made the jump up to Class A Bakersfield to start the season and pitched his way to Class AA Jackson. In 50 total appearances, Fry went 4-5 with a 2.03 ERA and nine saves. In 80 innings pitched, he struck out 113 and walked just 24.
Furbush feeling fine
Charlie Furbush will be on a slower pace than other relievers in camp. The lefty missed the last three and half months of the season with what was later diagnosed as a minor tear to his rotator cuff. He spent all offseason rehabbing and strengthening the shoulder. Furbush threw off the mound for the first time on Thursday.
“I think it was 20 pitches at minimal effort but he felt great about it,” Sevais said. “He had a lot left in the tank, but we’ll take it slow.”
Furbush was upbeat about the brief session.
“Felt great,” he said.
James Paxton was on KJR with Jason Puckett and Curtis Crabtree yesterday.
Here’s my segment on the same show.