PEORIA, Ariz. -- While it certainly looks and feels like winter back in Seattle -- as residents dig out from under snow and ice from a significant February blast from Mother Nature -- spring has arrived for the Mariners. Or Spring Training, at least.Though temperatures in the low 60s remain
PEORIA, Ariz. -- While it certainly looks and feels like winter back in Seattle -- as residents dig out from under snow and ice from a significant February blast from Mother Nature -- spring has arrived for the Mariners. Or Spring Training, at least.
Though temperatures in the low 60s remain relatively cool by Arizona standards, things are ready to start heating up at the Peoria Sports Complex as Mariners pitchers and catchers report to camp on Monday for physicals.
Instead of snowflakes, there'll be baseballs in the air starting Tuesday morning when those players take to the practice fields for the first time. And this particular spring comes with a breath of fresh air for a franchise that made major changes over the offseason.
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Among the 34 pitchers due to report on Monday, only 12 were with the Mariners at last year's Major League Spring Training. Five of the seven catchers will be in their first camp with Seattle.
It'll be more of the same when position players report Friday, with only seven of the 26 having been in Seattle's big league camp last spring, as always-active general manager Jerry Dipoto went into overdrive this offseason.
"There's a lot that I'm really looking forward to seeing," manager Scott Servais said. "The amount of talent we have acquired here in this short time is unbelievable. It really is. It's a testament to the guys in the front office and Jerry."
There are plenty of skeptics wondering why the Mariners blew up a team that went 89-73 last season, but Servais isn't among them. He knew significant change was going to be needed before long with a roster that had been built largely around older veterans with large contracts.
Rather than wait too long to move players whose window was growing short, the Mariners chose to trade players like James Paxton and Mike Zunino for peak value before their final seasons of arbitration eligibility. They dealt All-Stars Robinson Canó, Jean Segura and Edwin Díaz for prospects and future payroll flexibility. Nelson Cruz left in free agency.
It's not an easy transition for fans or players who'll need to learn all the new names and faces, but Servais believes this spring offers hope of something better down the road. A franchise that hasn't made the postseason in 17 years and struggled to develop top Draft picks and prospects suddenly has an influx of promising youngsters ready to re-write the script.
"I've been through this before with Texas when we did a similar thing," Servais said. "I've been through this as a player when I first started out with the Astros. There were some names that nobody knew about. Nobody knew about a guy ... 'Who's this guy Jeff Bagwell?' He ended up being OK."
Bagwell turned into a Hall of Famer for the Astros, who have again hit it big recently with a flock of new talent developed after some lean years. The challenge of catching up to Houston in the American League West is one of the reasons the Mariners knew they had to take a different tack.
Young pitchers Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson, acquired from the Yankees for Paxton, will be counted on as part of that future. Justin Dunn, one of five players who came from the Mets in the Cano/Diaz trade, is another pitcher to watch this spring.
This will be a camp built around new acquisitions like Japanese free-agent pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, catcher Omar Narváez, outfielders Domingo Santana and Mallex Smith, infielders J.P. Crawford and Shed Long, as well as previous first-round Draft picks Kyle Lewis and Evan White.
Servais is preaching patience, and noting that given time, these newcomers will carve their own niche and fans will forge new favorites.
"I don't know if we acquired a Jeff Bagwell, but we're going to find out," Servais said. "I know it's not the household names, believe me, but by the middle of May, you'll have plenty to root for."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.