Servais, Acta out for Mariners; Sewald on COVID list

Negrón fills in as acting manager; RHP Murfee called up

April 20th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The Mariners’ COVID-19 outbreak continued on Wednesday, with manager Scott Servais and third-base coach Manny Acta testing positive.

Both are vaccinated and must wait two days before undergoing another test. When they do, they’ll need to produce negative results on consecutive days and receive approval before returning.

Leverage reliever Paul Sewald was also placed on the COVID injured list, and righty Penn Murfee was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take his roster spot.

First-base coach Kristopher Negrón will serve as acting manager for Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, and that will likely continue until Servais returns. Hitting coach Tony Arnerich will take over Acta’s spot as third-base coach. And Tacoma coach Zach Vincej joined the big league team to take on Negrón’s first-base duties.

Additionally, hitting coordinator C.J. Gilman and special assignment coordinator Dan Wilson will be in the dugout.

Negrón will have final say on all decisions but will lean on the rest of the staff in what he described as a collaborative process, especially with director of hitting strategy Jarret DeHart, pitching coach Pete Woodworth, bullpen coach Trent Blank and field coordinator Carson Vitale. Servais called into each team meeting on Wednesday via Zoom, and that process will continue.

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to roll with the punches,” Negrón said. “We're all fully capable. We're going to work as a complete group. It's going to be a full unit working together. Carson, Woody, and I all of us, Trent ... We've all been on the same page. So, it's just going to be smooth sailing.”

Servais, Acta and Sewald are among the growing list of personnel who have tested positive since the season's first homestand began on Friday. Right fielder Mitch Haniger and catcher Luis Torrens were placed on the IL in recent days. An additional dozen front office and support staff have recently tested positive and also have been out, according to sources. The club on Tuesday began requiring team employees to wear masks in restricted areas, including the clubhouse, and Servais had required the coaching staff to wear masks as well.

As for the outbreak’s impact on the field, this is the first year on the Major League staff for Negrón, who played in the Majors as recently as 2019. He joined the front office after retiring in 2020, overseeing the alternate training site during the shortened season, then was promoted to manage Tacoma last year and was voted the Triple-A West Manager of the Year after leading the Rainiers to the league title.

Negrón brings a unique lens because he was teammates with a lot of the players he’ll be managing.  

He played with shortstop J.P. Crawford, utility man Dylan Moore and starting pitcher Marco Gonzales in 2019 with the Mariners. He also was teammates with third baseman Eugenio Suárez when both were with the Reds in 2015. And he played against first baseman Ty France in his final games with the Dodgers before retiring in 2019, when France was with the Padres.  

While he didn’t accumulate extensive Major League service time -- just 170 games and 416 plate appearances, over which he hit .221/.291/.336, while playing seven positions -- Negrón grinded out 15 years in pro ball, playing in six organizations and getting glimpses of how each one operates. And he knew immediately after retiring that he wanted to coach. 

“It's always going to be a little nerve-racking, but it's exciting at the same time,” Negrón said of his MLB managerial debut. “Anytime you get an opportunity like this, you’ve just got to try and take advantage as much as you can. And I've been talking with 'Skip' nonstop. And in Spring Training, we rode to games together every day. I was in his office every day. We have a great relationship. I’m as prepared as I can be right now.”

Sewald has picked up right where he left off after a dominant 2021, throwing four scoreless outings -- including one inning in Tuesday’s 6-2 win. Murfee, who will be making his debut, is likely slated for lower-leverage opportunities, but the Mariners will need all the bullpen help they can get without one of their best arms. In five outings for Tacoma, Murfee -- the club’s 33rd-round Draft pick in 2018 -- has thrown eight scoreless innings with just one hit allowed while racking up two saves.