With so many injuries, how does Mariners manager Scott Servais piece together a daily lineup? It's a combination of things.
KANSAS CITY — There will come a time — perhaps in a week or two — when manager Scott Servais stares down at the blank lineup card on his desk and is able to quickly scribble in the names of the nine players he envisioned as his every day starting lineup coming into the 2018 season.
It hasn’t happened once this season and won’t for at least the next week to 10 days thanks to injuries and disabled list stints for four of those expected every-day players — Ben Gamel (oblique strain), Mike Zunino (oblique strain), Nelson Cruz (right ankle sprain) and Ryon Healy (right ankle sprain).
Since opening day, Servais has been trying to piece together a lineup in a manner similar to a Cactus League game with only certain available players to choose from at that time. It’s less than ideal.
“We talked in our coaches and staff meeting the other day that it has that kind of feel,
Servais said. “You have to be creative in how you are going make it work. Whether it’s pinch hitting, or subbing for defense late, it’s different things we are having to going through now to put the best club out there that gives us the best chance to win that particular game.”
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On Tuesday, the Mariners rolled out their eighth different lineup and batting order in nine games this season. It looked like:
- Dee Gordon, CF
- Jean Segura, SS
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Mitch Haniger, RF
- Kyle Seager, 3B
- Guillermo Heredia, LF
- Daniel Vogelbach, DH
- Taylor Motter, 1B
- Mike Marjama, C
It was Motter’s first appearance at first base this season. While Andrew Romine does have more experience at first base, Servais wanted the right-handed hitting Motter in the lineup with the Kansas City starting lefty Eric Skoglund. Motter is probably better defensively than Vogelbach as well.
“We wanted to keep Vogey in the lineup and we wanted to give Motter a shot (at first base),” Servais said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Servais doesn’t have a dartboard filled with names that he’s firing at for his lineups. He has multiple options filling his mind. He’ll write one down then tear it up, and write a different one.
“Some people are going to say, ‘Well, why is he doing this or why is he doing that?'” he said. “But there’s a method to my madness.”
The method? It’s not based solely on stats and analytics, which are provided daily. And it’s not just off of gut feel.
“It’s a combination of both,” he said. “And you guys have been around me long enough to know that I use both. I’m not just all strictly to the numbers. A lot of it is feel and match-ups and how guys are swinging, how guys are feeling physically, how guys are doing mentally and where they are at. It’s a combination and I will always adhere to that type of process. In my opinion, that’s the way you need to do it.”
Servais isn’t afraid to communicate with players. He has an open door policy for all players, which Kyle Seager was using before Tuesday’s game. Servais will wander the clubhouse and talk to players, or pull them into his office. He will also walk around the field during batting practice to check in with all of them. He also expects his coaches to relay pertinent information about players and their current status as well.
“I talk to them every day,” he said.
Sure, he dreams of getting all of his guys healthy at once. But until then, he has to keep piecing it together.
“It’s really game-to-game right now,” he said of his lineup decisions. “I say that, but it’s not like every game is life or death. It’s not the seventh game of the World Series. But a win in April is just as important as a win in September. I just want to give us the best chance to go out and win.”
Before he could take the first question his media session, which would presumably be about one of the five players on the disabled list, Servais decided to pre-empt the back-and-forth and list off the updates.
His opening statement:
“What do we got today? We got injury updates. We’ve got a couple of guys on the DL. We’ve got Nelson Cruz, he’s got an ankle injury, he’s progressing nicely. He hit off the tee (Monday) and that went well. As we speak, he’s in the cage taking more swings. Check.
Mike Zunino is feeling much, much better. He’s going out and playing a little catch today and he will hit in the cage off the tee and a little bit more tomorrow. Mike Zunino is moving along nicely. Check.
Ryon Healy was seen by Dr. (Edward) Khalfayan yesterday. It went better than expected. He’s out of his walking boot. He’s walking fine now. He hasn’t done any baseball activity, obviously. But he’s moving along very nicely. Check.
Ben Gamel has been transferred (to Class AAA Tacoma). He’ll play in Fresno tonight. He continues to progress and is on track to hopefully join us this weekend on Friday.”
Servais forgot to say “Check” after Gamel, but then tossed in a “check, check” after saying Erasmo Ramirez was scheduled to pitch again on Thursday. He even said he had no injury update on announcer Dave Sims, who suffered a torn Achilles in Minnesota playing pickup basketball. Per his Facebook, Sims flew back to Seattle and is scheduled to undergo re-attachment surgery on Thursday.
“Check, check,” he said with a laugh. “It’s kind of crazy. It is what it is and I’m trying to have a little fun with it otherwise I’d be real sad. So we’ll go that way with it.”
Beyond the humor, the news about Healy seems like a positive. He was in a walking boot and on crutches on Sunday after injuring the ankle after Saturday’s game.
“It is,” Servais said. “It is better. He’s progressing much quicker. The swelling is out. He went from on crutches to out of the boot and walking on it in 48 hours. That’s good. We’ll move him along.”
Officially, the MRI revealed that Healy suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain.
“Some guys come back quicker than others on that, it’s all individual,” Servais said. “We’ll tape him up and get him out there eventually, but he’s out at least the 10 days.”
While Gamel is slated to return on Friday, Servais said that Zunino and Cruz could be a few days behind him. The Mariners would like to get Zunino a couple games on a rehab stint. They aren’t as concerned about that with Cruz since he’s a designated hitter.
Pitching probables for the A’s series
- Friday, April 13 — Andrew Triggs, RH vs. Mike Leake, RH
- Saturday, April 14 — Kendall Graveman, RH vs. Marco Gonzales, LH
- Sunday, April 15 — Sean Manaea, LH vs. Felix Hernandez, RH