Manager Scott Servais reflected on the Mariners' first workout and talked about pitch framing. Meanwhile, Meanwhile Leonys Martin has arrived at spring training early and is ready for a fresh start with Seattle.
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners enter their second day of pitchers and catchers’ workouts with temperatures predicted to reach low 80s.
Manager Scott Servais was pleased with the first day of workouts on Saturday. He delivered a brief and simple message beforehand about his expectations. It wasn’t quite the address he’ll have before the first full squad workout on Feb. 25.
“It will be the same message,” Servais said. “I will be consistent there. But I will go a little bit deeper in the opening meeting on kind of what the expectations are, why we’re here, what the goals are, kind of outline the two or three rules I have. It’s a very similar message. But I kind of just touched on it briefly. We’ll go much deeper there. I will say, I had everyone’s attention yesterday. I was very clear.”
This spring training is different than most. Servais let the players know about the changes, including a daily 9 a.m. meeting followed by “chalk talks” where position groups go over certain game and workout aspects.
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“I thought they went great,” Servais said. “As far as the opening meeting with the team, the thing I want to get across is it’s going to be different, a different environment, and I think they got a feel for that yesterday and will get more into it this morning. We’ll get to know about the players and get them to talk a little bit, which we’re going to have fun with.”
The chalk talks have roots in football coaching, which is something that Servais has embraced.
“The catchers divided up in a group and Dan Wilson ran that meeting,” he said. “Our pitchers divided up and of course Mel (Stottlemyre) and Mike Hampton ran that meeting. Those take time in getting the players comfortable and talking and expressing. I do know Chris Iannetta was quick to jump out and lead the catcher discussions. They were talking about framing metrics and what’s going to be different and why is it changing. It’s important. It’s evolving. Dan came from the same era as I did. We caught at the same time, so we were taught a lot of the same things. And it’s changed. Chris has taken on his experience and Mike Zunino is one of the better ones in the league over the last couple years in pitch framing. But the talk is what we’re going to do as a group and what should we work on, looking at video and that kind of thing.”
Servais, who caught 11 seasons in the big leagues, understands that framing and framing metrics are a large part of the game and the his catchers need to understand it as well. As with all things in baseball, it’s changed over the years.
“The umpires are graded out after every game on how good they were behind the plate,” he said. “Along those lines, with Trackman and what they’re able to do on the number of pitches that catchers are getting strikes vs. catchers that aren’t getting those same strikes, it does change the game. It differs. When Dan and I caught, it was an era where you were just supposed to catch it and hold it or stick it. Nowadays guys are learning to funnel the ball a little toward the strike zone. It seems to have benefited the guys that are ranked at the top of the charts in framing statistics.”
And if there is benefit, then there is a reason to work on it.
“There’s a reason some guys are good and others aren’t,” Servais said. “It’s the same thing as the better hitters in the league, you try to emulate them. The better pitchers, what are they doing? The better catchers, why? You go look at video and all the resources we have at our disposal, why not use it and look at it and try to learn from it.”
Leonys Martin arrives in Peoria
One of the Mariners’ key acquisitions arrived early to spring training to begin working out. Center fielder Leonys Martin was unloading gear early Sunday morning and preparing for a workout with other early-arriving position players.
General manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Martin from the Texas Rangers early in the offseason to fill a much-needed hole in the outfield. Seattle gave up reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones and versatile prospect Patrick Kivlehan for Martin and reliever Anthony Bass, who later opted to play in Japan.
“My agent called me like 10 minutes before Jerry called me,” Martin said. “I was a surprised to get traded that quick and I didn’t expect to get traded to Seattle. You know same division with the Rangers, not many cases where people get traded in the same division. I was expected to get traded to Seattle in the second half of last year by the trade deadline. But it didn’t happen. It was really exciting. I told my family I was traded to Seattle. I knew it was going to be a good spot for me with good things. If you are happy, your mind is happy and everything is supposed to be good.”
Martin had a miserable 2015 season. He played his way out of his starting center field job and into a minor league demotion by hitting .219 with 12 doubles, five homers and 25 RBI in 95 games, including a career low .264 on-base percentage that featured 69 strikeouts and just 16 walks. It got worse. A week into his stint with Class AAA Round Rock, Martin suffered fractured hamate bone in his right hand on a swing. He had surgery to remove the bone. He made it back for one game in September. The Rangers left him off the postseason roster and wanted him to attend the instructional league in Arizona instead. Frustrated with the situation, Martin refused to go.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” he said. “It was a bad year.”
The refusal to go to Arizona and the down offensive numbers cemented Martin’s status as an available player via trade.
“He did not have a good year last year,” Servais said. “He had a little injury issue and then he kind of lost his spot. It happens in this game. It’s why we were able to acquire him. If not, we wouldn’t have been able to get him. He’s another guy, with how we want to build our team, that’s a key acquisition for us.”
To prepare for a new season with a new team, Martin worked out in Miami with coaches in an effort to improve his hitting and then headed to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I went to play in winter league for a little bit to reset my mind.”
In nine games, Martin hit .297 (11-for-37) with a .372 on-base percentage, including three doubles, two homers and five walks for Del Licey. The weren’t to his stance or swing, but they helped.
“Just to change the approach at home plate, trying to see the ball, see pitchers and everything,” he said. “When I went to play in the Dominican, I could feel the difference.”
He knows the Mariners are all about getting on base. It was made clear to him.
“When we first acquired Leonys, I talked to him,” Servais said. “I told him it’s not about the batting average, as I explained to him. Where you’re going to fit in our lineup, get on base. I don’t care how you do it. Whether it’s bunting, getting hit by a pitch, walking, getting more hits, I don’t care. Just get on base so the guys in the middle of our lineup have somebody out there when they come up.”
Martin’s locker in the clubhouse is near the locker of close friend and former Rangers’ teammate Nelson Cruz. That wasn’t by accident.
“I’ve had a relationship with Nellie since five or six years ago,” Martin said. “He was like my dad in my first year in Texas. That relationship is still going. It’s awesome. Every day is better. They say he’s a better person than a player. I’ve heard it said many times. I don’t how to explain it, but he means a lot for me to be here. He’s going to be like my dad in baseball.”
The last few days haven’t been fun for Martin. His former agent Bart Hernandez, who helped him defect from Cuba, was indicted on human trafficking charges by the U.S. government.
Martin issued this statement through his agency:
“I am obviously aware that Bart Hernandez was arrested yesterday by the United States government. The decision to arrest him was made by the government, not by me, and any questions about why he was arrested should be directed to the prosecutor in Florida.
“Out of respect for the judicial process, I will have no further comment on this matter, and I ask that the media respect my privacy and the privacy of my family. My total focus is on doing everything in my ability to contribute to a successful season for the Seattle Mariners.”
Martin downplayed his role in the situation or it’s effect on him.
“No, that wasn’t my decision,” he said. “All I got on my mind is play baseball. That’s all I’m about is baseball. I’ve got no comment on it.”
He was adamant it wouldn’t be a distraction.
“No,” he said. “It’s happened before. People asked me the same questions before, but just play baseball. That’s what I’m about.”
Fry feeling better
Left-hander Paul Fry was waiting to find out if he could participate in a full workout on Sunday. The young relief prospect had been fighting the effects of an illness in January. The concern from the Mariners’ medical staff was that he hadn’t put back on any of the weight he’d lost from being sick.
“I’ve been cleared,” he said. “But I have to wait and see what they’ll let me do.”
Fry underwent several tests and the Mariners are still waiting for the results of some of them.
“Rick Griffin will get the test results back tomorrow,” Servais said. “Hopefully, he’s going to be ok. He’s just not feeling well. There’s no orthopedic stuff there, just ailing.”
Fry was scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday. And he’s not listed to throw on Sunday. All he was able to do in the first workout was play catch and watch drills before going back in and getting a light workout in the gym.
“It drove me nuts to stand there and watch,” he said.
Minor league mini-camp opens
The Mariners opened their minor league mini-camp this afternoon. There are 42 players invited. Here’s the roster