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Mariners back to work after Japan sweep

March 23, 2019

SEATTLE -- The Mariners came back from Japan two wins ahead of the rest of the American League West and minus one future Hall of Famer. But after a breather -- and a trans-Pacific flight -- it was back to work with a public workout Saturday at T-Mobile Park as

SEATTLE -- The Mariners came back from Japan two wins ahead of the rest of the American League West and minus one future Hall of Famer.

But after a breather -- and a trans-Pacific flight -- it was back to work with a public workout Saturday at T-Mobile Park as part of the club's two-day FanFest.

But they were very much coming off the high of the two-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, the Major League debut of Yusei Kikuchi and the retirement of outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in front of his countrymen at the Tokyo Dome.

”I thought it would be great for our team, just bringing so many new guys, bringing everybody together,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “The travel, going to a different country, you tend to gravitate towards everybody else you’re familiar with. Then to top it off with everything that went down with Ichiro. Really couldn’t have gone any better -- and by the way, we did win two games. That kind of gets overlooked.”

The Mariners sealed the sweep with a 5-4 victory in 12 innings Thursday as Domingo Santana beat out a double-play relay from Oakland’s Jurickson Profar, allowing Dee Gordon to come home with the winning run.

All in all, a pretty good start for a Seattle team with a few new faces. But the Mariners returned to their newly rebranded home park, for a bit of a breather after their whirlwind trip to Japan.

”It was a little long,” infielder Tim Beckham said of the flight back from Japan. “But just to get back and get a couple of days off and get acclimated to this time zone, it’s good for everyone.”

The regular season will resume quickly enough Thursday when the defending-champion Boston Red Sox come to town, so the public workout was a change to get back to work.

”We’re going back to Spring Training today; it is hard, no question about it,” Servais said. “The biggest thing is get out, we’ll run around the next couple of days, get on the field and try to get our legs underneath us again and get through a couple of exhibition games, and we’ve got the world champs coming into town.

”We’ve certainly got enough on our plate to grab our attention.”

Before the Red Sox arrive to reboot the 2019 regular season, the San Diego Padres will come to T-Mobile Park for a two-game exhibition series starting Monday.

It was a long trip and a quick turnaround, as far as coming back to the field for FanFest now,” closer Hunter Strickland said. “But it’s great just to get comfortable here, and I think we’re going to take these exhibition games just like the regular season and continue that momentum.”

Momentum is the only problem with the layoff -- after coming back from Japan, the Mariners won’t get the benefit of a bounce from that emotional Opening Series.

"I hope we’re able to grow on it,” Servais said. “I think we did some good things. We have a lot of players who are new to the organization. Guys that really stood out -- Domingo Santana played well, Tim Beckham played well, [relievers] Hunter Strickland, [Cory] Guerrin, [Zac] Rosscup all threw well, Kikuchi gets his first one under his belt.

”There were so many positives coming out of that trip, you hope you can keep it rolling, and I don’t see why we can’t.”

The Mariners also used the weekend to make a pair of roster moves to cut the roster down to 25. Following Suzuki’s retirement, the team optioned reliever Dan Altavilla and outfielder Braden Bishop to Triple-A-Tacoma on Saturday.

Altavilla posted a 4.50 ERA in six innings this spring, while Bishop hit .379 (11-for-29) with three homers and 11 RBIs.