SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There is an intensity to Mariners manager Scott Servais that isn’t often seen by fans or television cameras. He’s too controlled and self-disciplined to let it become noticeable or turn into a spectacle. But it’s there. And when the right buttons are pushed, it comes out.
Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young award winners, is brash, outspoken and developing into a notorious button-pusher for the baseball establishment, opposing teams and players and fans.
And Bauer provoked the ire of the level-headed Servais.
After his outing against the Mariners on Monday night, which included giving up three long homers and five runs in his final inning of work, Bauer downplayed the Mariners’ offensive outburst.
“The fifth inning,” he told Dodgers reporters via Zoom. “There really wasn’t any thought of sequencing or whatever. I was just throwing pitches. That’s not a really good mind frame to be in when you’re trying to get guys out. But I was just finishing off the night, trying to get my pitch count up.”
When asked about his team’s improved offense in recent games, Servais talked about the improved approaches of his players and their willingness to grind out at-bats. But in that answer, he reworked Bauer’s comments with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
“Certainly Bauer was on top of his game early,” he said. “I just wanted everybody to know our guys weren’t trying the first four innings. We decided to try in the fifth inning last night and it worked out. Our guys started trying. I know he had said maybe he wasn’t trying in the fifth, but our guys were trying in the fifth. We just didn’t take it seriously the first three to four innings.”
Servais was asked if Mariners’ hitters had both eyes open while hitting, referencing Bauer’s latest spring training habit of pitching with one eye closed to challenge himself in meaningless games.
“No, our guys were hitting with one eye shut for the first four innings,” Servais deadpanned. “We were also trying to breathe through our eyelids as we are focusing on different things that will help us throughout the years. I just want to make sure everybody understood they weren’t trying the first four innings.”
Bullpen spots start to become clearer
With the recent rounds of roster moves to cut players from Major League Baseball camp on Monday and Tuesday, the Mariners’ opening-day roster, specifically the eight-man bullpen, is starting to crystallize.
There has been minimal drama in terms of position battles this spring. So many of the roster spots were decided weeks, if not months, ago, leaving open competitions for the starting left-field job, the last starter in the six-man rotation and about three spots in the bullpen.
Servais hopes that general manager Jerry Dipoto finalizes the opening-day roster in the coming days so players can be informed of their status and the team can start moving forward.
It’s possible the decisions at left field and the sixth starter might be the last to be made. But the bullpen, that seems to be almost done.
As of now these five players have spots locked up:
Rafael Montero, RHP – Servais joked that the projected closer seems to pitch with a resting heart rate at all times regardless of the situation.
Kendall Graveman, RHP – His transition to the full-time relief role has been relatively seamless. The recommendations of using his offspeed have led to even better results.
Keynan Middleton, RHP – His fastball has lacked velocity and movement at times this spring, which is why he’s given up five homers in eight appearances.
Casey Sadler, RHP – The Mariners believe the spin rates on his curveball and two-seam fastball makes him a steal of a waivers claim. He’s struck out 12 batters in 6 1/3 innings this spring.
Anthony Misiewicz, LHP – He might be the only lefty in the bullpen. His ability to get out right-handers makes him ultra-valuable with the three batter minimum rule.
Right-hander Domingo Tapia is still recovering from an oblique strain and won’t be ready to start the season. He would’ve been locked into a spot.
You can now rule out the talented but unpredictable Yohan Ramirez from contention. The hard-throwing right-hander, who was Seattle’s Rule 5 pick in 2020, was optioned to the alternate site on Monday.
After missing extended time due to COVID-19 protocols, Ramirez was behind in his throwing progression. When he did pitch in games, he displayed minimal control of his mid-90s fastball and nasty slider – something that has plagued him throughout his career. Ramirez made just one Cactus League appearance, hitting two batters, walking another and tossing two wild pitches. His appearances in simulated games were just as erratic.
Non-roster invites J.T. Chargois, Taylor Guerrieri and Matt Magill, who all have MLB experience, were re-assigned to minor-league camp and are no longer candidates.
So who is left?
There are four right-handers that are possibilities in Erik Swanson, Joey Gerber, Will Vest and Drew Steckenrider. Of those four, Swanson, Gerber and Vest are already on the 40-man roster. Vest is a Rule 5 pick, meaning he must be carried on the active roster for the entire season or be sent back to the Detroit Tigers. The Mariners’ love Vest’s sinking Vulcan changeup that he held between his middle and ring fingers and moves like a slower splitfinger fastball. That Seattle has carried him this far into spring training and has seen him bounce back after a few shaky outings, makes it seem he will get a spot.
That leaves two spots: Before a shaky outing against the Rangers, Gerber had been dominant. Swanson has also been steady, showing that his fastball is going to stay in the high 90s but still be a little too straight. The Mariners would have to create a 40-man roster spot for Steckenrider. But they could do that by placing Ken Giles on the 60-day injured list.
The wild card could be putting Nick Margevicius back into the bullpen if he doesn’t beat out Justin Dunn for the last rotation spot. But it seems like the Mariners would prefer not to do that if possible.
Kyle Lewis was a late scratch from the Mariners lineup for Tuesday night’s game after banging into the wall trying to make a catch in Monday’s game.
“He’s fine,” Servais said. “We’re at the point in spring where there is no need to push it. So we’ll give him a day off.”
Servais said plans are not final for the team’s alternate training site. But MLB sources indicate that the team may try and use T-Mobile Park instead of Cheney Stadium because of the retractable roof and the unpredictable spring weather in the Puget Sound.