Mariners' first task is to get to know one another

Club heads out in new direction on first day of camp

February 20th, 2016

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Thirty-four pitchers and catchers took to the practice fields for the first time Saturday morning as new Mariners skipper Scott Servais kicked off his first Spring Training under blue skies and 80-plus degree temperatures.

After an offseason of unprecedented change, there was a welcome feeling to the familiar sight of players beginning preparation for a season that begins with Cactus League play in less than two weeks.

"I'm really excited," Servais said. "I think everybody in the building is excited -- players, coaches, the front office upstairs. A lot has gone into the point we've got to today. Everybody is anxious. Enough talking, let's roll."

Servais and his coaching staff -- which is all new except for hitting coach Edgar Martinez and quality assurance coach Chris Prieto -- met with players for an introductory team meeting in the morning and then took the field for the first of 43 days of camp.

With 16 of the 28 pitchers and three of the six catchers being new to the Mariners, a lot of the early work will be about getting to know each other and the new program. Servais will hold meetings every morning to convey his messages and allow players to communicate as well, but the ultimate story will be told on the field.

Servais, who has been in player development with the Rangers and Angels for the previous 10 years, is eager to see how things come together and knows the ultimate feedback will be how the team performs over 162 games.

Felix in line for 8th straight Opening Day start

"It's great to put rosters and teams together on paper," he said. "It looks good. We should get on base and we should strike out less and we should do this and that, but that's why we play the games. We're in a very competitive division, we've got a lot of work ahead of us as far as getting to know these guys and letting them get to know us.

"It looks like it'll be an exciting team. It will be a different team for Mariners fans to watch, there is no question about that. How many games we'll win, I don't know. I like our team a lot and I think we'll be very competitive."

Worth noting

• All 28 pitchers and six healthy catchers reported for duty on Saturday. "No surprises, other than Felix's hair," Servais said after Felix Hernandez arrived sporting a new blond top.

• Left-hander Vidal Nuno started 10 games last year, but he will be used strictly as a reliever in camp.

"We know what he can do as a starter, but his numbers against left-handed hitters have been really good," Servais said. "We'll try to put guys into position to succeed and take advantage of what they do best, and that seems to be what he does. He can get through a lineup, but facing left-handers has really been his strength."

• Danny Hultzen will also work solely in the bullpen as the Mariners attempt to get him going after three seasons of dealing with shoulder issues. "Whether he makes this club or another [Minor League] club, we just want to get him healthy and feeling good about it," Servais said. "If we can get Danny to smile and relax a little bit, he is some kind of intense competitor. He just wants it so bad."

• Veteran lefty reliever Charlie Furbush threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session on Thursday as he returns from a slight rotator cuff tear in his shoulder that ended his season last July. Servais said Furbush felt great, but will be brought along slowly this camp. Some of the other veterans -- Hernandez, Joaquin Benoit, Hisashi Iwakuma -- will also go on a slower pace early, as is typically the case.

• Six pitchers threw bullpen sessions on Saturday -- Taijuan Walker, Wade Miley, Joel Peralta, Steve Cishek, Donn Roach and Justin De Fratus. They'll take two days off before throwing off the mound again Tuesday under new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre's program. All the pitchers went through extensive pitcher's fielding practice and conditioning drills before wrapping up the first day.