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Seeking more W's, M's catching up on Zzz's

Mariners hope later workout times will allow players to sleep in, rest up
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Most people don't need encouragement to sleep in a little longer, but baseball players have been conditioned for years to arrive bright and early every morning for Spring Training workouts.

So it is that Mariners manager Scott Servais has found himself actually needing to convince some of his players that, indeed, you don't need to troop into the clubhouse at 6 a.m. anymore and head immediately for the coffee maker.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Most people don't need encouragement to sleep in a little longer, but baseball players have been conditioned for years to arrive bright and early every morning for Spring Training workouts.

So it is that Mariners manager Scott Servais has found himself actually needing to convince some of his players that, indeed, you don't need to troop into the clubhouse at 6 a.m. anymore and head immediately for the coffee maker.

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The Mariners are one of eight teams adopting a growing trend in Major League Baseball, pushing spring workouts later in the day after sleep studies indicated players would be more productive if they were getting extra rest and should stay healthier for the long run if they stay closer to the same routine that teams adopt during the regular season when night games are the norm.

The Yankees and Giants started the trend two years ago, and now the Mariners, Rays, Cardinals, Mets, Phillies and Royals are all giving later starts a try this spring.

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Seattle's workouts in the opening week of camp have been pushed back about an hour and a half from previous years, with pitchers and catchers due for a team meeting at 10:30 a.m. and hitting the field at about 11:30.

Workouts will start closer to 10 a.m. next week when position players report, and the normal routine will return once Cactus League games begin, since morning work has to be done in time for the 1 p.m. starts.

But the Mariners scheduled far more night games this spring as well, with 12 of their 32 Cactus League games slated for the evening to mirror more of what happens once the regular season begins.

"I said in my opening meeting, 'You're not going to make the team by being here at a quarter to 6 in the morning,'" Servais said. "'This is about what you can do to take care of your body and be ready to perform out on the field at the highest level.'"

The Mariners travel more than any Major League team every year because of their Pacific Northwest location, and they often arrive back home late and have to be at the park early the following day. So they added a "sleep room" at Safeco Field last year, where players can catch a quick nap if needed instead of crashing on couches in the middle of the busy clubhouse.

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They also hired Dr. Lorena Martin in the offseason as their "high performance director" to coordinate physical and mental conditioning.

The watchwords this spring are "rest and recovery," with the expectation that injuries can be reduced and production increased.

Players are creatures of habit, and not all have embraced the later start times yet, but Servais said most are adjusting.

"There's been a lot of changes in baseball since I played, and this is just another one," Servais said. "Players adapt. We're just more in tune with what's going on with the wear and tear on the body. Why not? Spring training is about getting ready for Opening Day. Let's make sure we're in the best spot there."

Mike Zunino noted veterans early in his career stressed that catchers always need to be the first ones in the clubhouse each day to set the tone for the pitching staff, and while he again remains one of the earlier birds, he endorses the rest idea.

"I remember some of the first guys I had here were Kelly Shoppach and John Buck, and they said, 'Hey, you want to be the first person these guys see when they come in here,'" Zunino said. "So I've always been here early. So when they told me to come in later, I was like, 'You mean 10 minutes?' But it's been good. It is nice to have that extra hour or so to just sort of relax.

"They're doing a good job keeping it light and mixing up the schedule so we can stay on our toes. It's just about being smart."

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

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