Mariners' ex-Angels make first trip to Anaheim

April 23rd, 2016
Mariners manager Scott Servais was the Angels' farm director from 2012-15. (AP)

ANAHEIM -- Jerry Dipoto didn't accompany the Mariners on their current nine-game road trip, so Seattle's general manager wasn't in the ballpark Friday when his new team faced the Angels squad he put together the previous four seasons for the first time this season.

But two of Dipoto's former Angels front-office assistants -- manager Scott Servais and bench coach Tim Bogar -- were in the Mariners' dugout. Additionally, Mariners bullpen coach Mike Hampton was the Angels' Double-A pitching coach in 2013-14, and former Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was behind the plate for Seattle as the long-time American League West foes began what figures to be an interesting new chapter in the rivalry.

"A lot of memories. A lot of good memories," Servais said of his first return to Anaheim, where he worked as the assistant GM in charge of scouting and player development the previous four years under Dipoto. "I was very involved here and spent a lot of time here. It's kind of surreal walking into the ballpark and coming into this clubhouse, but change happens in the game. It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm happy to be back here."

Servais, in his first year of managing at any level, has stepped in comfortably as Seattle's new skipper. The former Major League catcher has been well prepared for all the challenges to come his way and figures to be even more prepared against a team he helped put together as the farm director from 2012-15 after six years in the same role with the Rangers.

"When you watch every game for the last four years, very closely and intently every day no matter where you're at, you do know them well," he said prior to Friday's series opener. "You know the players and personalities. How does that play out on the field? I'm not playing the game tonight. I'll just be in the dugout and try to put our guys in position to have success."

Iannetta, who played the past four years for the Angels, figures to have some insights as well into his former teammates, particularly the pitchers he caught. But he downplayed any potential advantage, saying players are constantly evolving and situations always changing. So he's not taking his preparation for granted this series.

"You still look at the scouting reports on their pitchers even though you know a lot of the guys. You still look at the reports and digest them," he said. "Then you compare them to what you know. And you treat it like a regular game once it starts."

Iannetta does have insights on his former teammates, however. Like how to approach Mike Trout.

"Don't pitch to him," he said with sly smile. "There's not a lot of holes there. He's the best player in the game for a reason. He's going to get his hits and he's going to do good things. You just try to limit the damage and limit his opportunities to do those things."

Like Servais, Iannetta said the oddest thing was walking into the stadium and not reporting for work in the home clubhouse.

"It's definitely a different feeling being on this side of the stadium," he said. "But we're all professionals. We're all going to go through it except for a select few that stay with one team over the course of their careers. It's part of it."