Mariners' nucleus ready to take next step

Manager Servais says camp has a different feeling this year thanks to all the familiar faces

February 14th, 2018

PEORIA, Ariz. -- There's something different about Mariners camp this spring. Something new. Or not new, as it turns out.

After two years of huge turnover in the organization, there were far more familiar faces than newcomers in the clubhouse to start camp on Wednesday, as pitchers and catchers reported for their physicals prior to taking the field for the first official workouts on Thursday.

Of the 32 pitchers in camp, 21 were with the Mariners' Major League club at some point last season, and four others were in the Minor League system. Manager Scott Servais believes having such an established nucleus now will help.

Mariners' Spring Training information

"The feeling around our club is much different this spring than it was last year," Servais said as he prepared to open his third spring camp as skipper. "The fact that it's like, 'It's time.' Our guys feel it."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Servais has spent considerable time the past two springs doing team-building exercises and encouraging players to get to know each other. He'll still do things to help players reveal their personalities and learn more about their teammates, but he acknowledges it's nice to have fewer introductions this time around.

"We don't have a whole room of new guys, so hopefully that helps bring the group together quicker," Servais said. "Instead of playing the month of April trying to figure out who we are, on March 29 we'll have a very clear picture. Obviously, we have Dee Gordon and and some other new guys, but it's not the whole group we're trying to bring together."

As pitchers and catchers began gathering as a full group for the first time Wednesday, there were plenty of hugs and happy handshakes.

"It's nice to have that familiarity a little bit, because the last couple years here were a lot of changes," said reliever Tony Zych, one of just eight holdovers from the 40-man roster that general manager Jerry Dipoto inherited at the end of the 2015 season. "We've got our group here now, and we also have some good additions with [Juan] Nicasio and others in the bullpen and we'll see more of what [David] Phelps can do. He was unbelievable last year for the short time. So, I'm excited to see what happens."

Zych said he spent the offseason in frequent contact with fellow relievers Nick Vincent, , and others, which didn't always happen in previous winters with the team in transition.

"It's nice just because the last couple years we've had a lot of new faces and personalities, and it took a long time for everyone to feel each other out," Altavilla said. "This year it seems like we've already got great chemistry just coming in here and seeing everyone work out. Everybody is excited."

All 32 pitchers and six catchers reported on time, as expected. Position players don't report until Monday, but a number are already in camp working out early, including outfielders Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger, , and Gordon, first baseman and utility man .