9-inning spring games a priority for Mariners

February 28th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cactus League play begins Sunday, and it could look quite different. Spring Training games through March 13 can be five innings, seven innings or nine innings upon mutual agreement of both managers. Games from March 14 to the end of Spring Training can be shortened to seven innings.

For the Mariners -- at least for now -- they want full length. They’ve opted in conjunction with the Padres for a nine-inning game on Sunday and will seek the same agreement with Cleveland for Tuesday’s game. That could change depending on attrition and availability.

But overall, Seattle is looking to stretch out a collection of 42 arms it has in camp while also gaining roster clarity, given uncertainty in the bullpen beyond Rafael Montero, Keynan Middleton and Kendall Graveman and the throng of mid- to low-leverage candidates in camp.

“We're mapped out to play nine innings,” manager Scott Servais said. “If somebody pulls back and says, ‘We only got seven or eight today,’ then we'll pull a reliever out and move on to the next day. So, we can work through all that.”

Once their starters are stretched out, the Mariners will have the ability to play ‘B’ games with other clubs in the West Valley area -- the Padres, Royals and Rangers are all in close proximity. But the ideal objective is to accumulate as many live reps against external competition.

Pitching depth and innings allocation when it comes to health will be perhaps the most vital factor for every club in 2021 as the league shifts from a shortened season back to 162 games. In that vein, the Mariners want to spread the workloads in camp while also gleaning which arms are the best fits for the big league roster.

After Sunday’s game, the Mariners will have a full off-day on Monday then begin a 26-game slate in as many days beginning Tuesday. When the Mariners do opt for a nine-inning game, they and the opposing team must reach that agreement before 3 p.m. MST the day prior. Those negotiations typically take place with members of the front office, bench coaches and field coordinators.

Everyday players won’t play every day -- yet
Right fielder Mitch Haniger was already expected to be eased into action this spring, but Servais said Saturday that the club plans to regularly rest a chunk of Seattle’s regular starters throughout Cactus League play. That includes even younger players, such as center fielder Kyle Lewis and shortstop J.P. Crawford.

“When I say off-day, it's a complete off-day, and they don't do anything out on the field,” Servais said. “We’ll mix those days in. The important thing is to be ready for April 1. You want guys to be fresh, feel good about where their swings are, where their arms are at. So, we'll be very cautious on that.”

This is a logical strategy beyond the rest factor, given that the Mariners have a bevy of their top prospects in camp -- many of whom need competitive action having not played in games since last Spring Training due to the cancellation of last year’s Minor League season.

Seattle’s everyday players won’t begin playing back-to-back days regularly until the final week of camp, Servais said.

Seattle graduates 13 from CENAPEC Program in D.R.
The Mariners announced on Saturday that 13 players have graduated from the CENAPEC program at the club’s Dominican Academy -- more than double last year’s class.

“All of these graduates demonstrated a terrific work ethic both on and off the field, and we are thrilled to have them as part of our program,” Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said. “I want to extend a special thank you to Walkyria Torres, Rene Gallegos and the rest of our teachers who contribute so much to the CENAPEC program every year.”

This year’s graduates were outfielders Miguel Perez and George Feliz, infielders Luis Chevalier, Andres Mesa and Jery Hernandez and right-handers Luis Alcantara, Kristian Cardozo, Gabriel Sosa, Lisander Brito, Raul Alcantara, Yeury Tatiz, Josias De Los Santos and Ricardo Volquez.

The CENAPEC program is a high school equivalency program for athletes and adult civilians who didn’t graduate from high school (similar to the GED). It is part of the collective efforts by Major League Baseball to help further the growth and education of all professional players.

When the Mariners opened their Dominican academy in 2014, they also expanded their curriculum for players from singular English classes to a more robust program. While in the Mariners Academy, players receive English, computer, writing and high school equivalency courses. Over the past five years, the Mariners have had 37 players receive their diplomas.