With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Mariners squad each day this week. Today's topic: Spring Training is here.PEORIA, Ariz. -- As the Mariners gather for the start of Spring Training on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers report for their
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Mariners squad each day this week. Today's topic: Spring Training is here.
PEORIA, Ariz. -- As the Mariners gather for the start of Spring Training on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers report for their physicals, there will be a lot of new faces on board again. But make no mistake, this Mariners team isn't starting from scratch, as it did a year ago under new manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Servais now has a foundation set, with his entire coaching staff returning for its second year and a program and philosophy now firmly in place as the club looks to build on last season's 86-76 record.
"I couldn't be more excited," Servais said. "I sat here a year ago and never managed a Major League game and somehow I made it through and learned a lot. We learned a lot about our players last year, and I think we got along. We made a lot of strides in establishing our culture. I like our environment around our team."
:: Spring Training 2017 preview ::
Servais remains grateful that the club's veterans bought into his new ideas last spring. He says Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and others were integral to the team's willingness to band together and grow despite the huge amount of turnover in the organization.
This year's change lies strictly in the roster makeup, where Dipoto made 13 offseason trades and signed two free agents in an effort to continue building the talent level and depth.
Of the 42 pitchers and catchers reporting, 20 are new to the organization this year. So there will be plenty of introductions and team-building exercises from Servais, but there also will be a feeling of familiarity with the staff and returning players.
And Servais acknowledges he's more at ease heading into his second go-round as Seattle's skipper after never managing at any level prior to last spring.
"I really did realize the value of being patient with guys, not overreacting at times," he said. "I think along the way I earned our players' trust by showing a lot of faith in those guys. I also realized the importance of having a leadership group that you can really rely on, because you heard me say often, the game is about the players. It's their team, and I think it really got to the point where they are taking ownership in it."
That process begins anew this week. Here's a glance at what to expect as Mariners camp gets underway:
• Spring Training:Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear
Pitchers/catchers report: Tuesday
Full squad reports: Saturday
First Cactus League game: Saturday, Feb. 25, 12:10 p.m. PT vs. Padres at Peoria Stadium
The newcomers are led by shortstop Jean Segura, who topped the National League in hits last year for the D-backs, as well as speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson and starting pitchers Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo.
Rookie Mitch Haniger, also acquired from Arizona in the Taijuan Walker trade, figures to start in right field, and first baseman Danny Valencia and veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz are also slated for considerable playing time. All those players were acquired in trades, while lefty relief specialist Marc Rzepczynski (two years, $11 million) was Dipoto's primary free-agent signee.
Other first-timers include utility man Taylor Motter; starting pitchers Rob Whalen, Max Povse, Chris Heston and Dillon Overton; and relievers Shae Simmons, Casey Fien, Zac Curtis and James Pazos. Povse, acquired from the Braves, is the Mariners' No. 9-ranked prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, while Overton is 10th, Whalen 13th, Haniger 14th and Pazos 27th.
Interesting non-roster invitees
Micah Owings, a 34-year-old right-hander, will get a shot to show what he can do on the mound after several years of trying to be a position player in the Minor Leagues and then pitching independent ball last year. Owings was 32-33 with a 4.86 ERA in 138 games, including 68 starts, from 2007-12 with the D-backs, Reds and Padres.
Reliever Jean Machi, a 35-year-old right-hander who was 12-2 with a 3.47 ERA from 2012-15 with the Giants and Red Sox, will also get a look, along with some other pitchers with MLB experience -- like Christian Bergman, Nick Hagadone and Dean Kiekhefer -- who agreed to Minor League deals. A new position player to watch is outfielder Kyle Waldrop, a former top prospect in the Reds organization, who is still only 25 with just 23 Major League at-bats.
Prospects to watch
Outfielder Tyler O'Neill will garner lots of attention as the club's No. 2 prospect in his first big league camp.
Right-handed starter Andrew Moore (No. 8) was last year's Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and South Africa native Dylan Unsworth, 24, is another intriguing youngster. Young catchers Tyler Marlette (No. 28), Marcus Littlewood and Steve Baron are back at camp again, as is infielder Tyler Smith (No. 30).
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.