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Healy ready to step up at first for Mariners

Newly acquired slugger expected to be everyday first baseman
January 29, 2018

SEATTLE -- Ryon Healy might be new to the Mariners, but he knows the story. Seattle has the longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball -- and he'd love to be part of the group that ends the dry spell."It's definitely not in the back of our minds -- it's

SEATTLE -- Ryon Healy might be new to the Mariners, but he knows the story. Seattle has the longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball -- and he'd love to be part of the group that ends the dry spell.
"It's definitely not in the back of our minds -- it's in the front of the minds of everyone," said Healy, who was acquired from the A's in November to fill Seattle's first-base hole. "Everyone is excited about the opportunity we have with the talent, the focus and not only the veteran leadership, but the young core that is already here and has some big league experience.
"It's going to be exciting to watch it all come together this year."
As one of general manager Jerry Dipoto's primary offseason acquisitions, the 26-year-old slugger could figure prominently in that effort. Since Healy's promotion to the big leagues a year and a half ago, he's posted a .282/.313/.475 line with 38 homers and 115 RBIs in 221 games.

First base has been a problem for the Mariners in recent years. Last season, Seattle's first basemen -- primarily Danny Valencia and Yonder Alonso -- posted the lowest combined OPS of any team at that position in the Majors at .697, with a slash line of .245/.308/.389. They were also last in RBIs, with 77, and 29th in home runs, with 19.
The 2016 platoon of Dae-Ho Lee and Adam Lind was a little better with a .253/.304/.446 line with 30 homers and 92 RBIs, but still ranked 20th in OPS at .750 and middle of the pack, at best, in other categories.
Dipoto and manager Scott Servais acquired Healy with the belief he can handle the job on an everyday basis and eliminate the platoon, which would give the Mariners more roster flexibility -- and the option of carrying an extra reliever -- as well as another potent power bat behind Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

But Healy, for his part, is taking nothing for granted. He's only been in the big leagues for a season and a half and he's smart enough to know there are no guarantees at this level.
"I'm still preparing to earn everything I'm going to get," Healy said. "I don't expect to walk into Spring Training and be handed the first base job and be in the starting lineup Opening Day. I'm going to earn it and go out there and do it with my performance and effort and success."
Servais just wants Healy to keep building on his initial time in the Majors. And he's seen enough of the lanky youngster to know what he's capable of doing, given Healy hit .287/.322/.509 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 29 games against Seattle in that span.
"I think Ryon Healy is a really interesting pickup," Servais said. "Ryon has worn us out the last couple of years. He's swung the bat as well against us as he has anybody in the league while going back and forth between third and first base. We're keeping him at first base and I think that could really help him."
During his time with the A's, Healy played 104 games at third, 78 at designated hitter and 39 at first. But all 39 games at first base came last year, and the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder said that position is what he primarily played in his three seasons at the University of Oregon. It's a comfortable fit.
"I've been able to take more reps at first base [this winter]," Healy said. "Last year, I was splitting a lot of time between first and third. I still take a lot of ground balls, whether it be at shortstop or third base. I just like to move my feet and field ground balls and do the footwork around the bag.
"But there is a lot of bag work and picks and things that are more specific to the first base position. That's where I've spent a lot of my offseason."
And that's where Healy will be full time in less than a month, with Mariners position players reporting to Spring Training in Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 19. And it should be an impressive group of talent if things fall into place with the addition of speedsters Dee Gordon in the leadoff role and Healy helping out in the middle of the order.
"There are guys that are dangerous in the lineup all the way from Dee down to whoever it might be," Healy said. "It's exciting to have that kind of production and versatility between the speed and power that we have one through nine. It's going to be fun."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.