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Servais helping to ease Kikuchi's transition

After 10-hour workouts in Japan, Kikuchi to get change of pace in U.S.
February 14, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After hearing new free-agent pitcher Yusei Kikuchi was used to 10-hour Spring Training practices in Japan, Mariners manager Scott Servais acknowledged Thursday he'd love to see how those teams conduct their workouts.But, no, the Mariners will not be changing up their spring routine anytime soon.:: Spring Training

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After hearing new free-agent pitcher Yusei Kikuchi was used to 10-hour Spring Training practices in Japan, Mariners manager Scott Servais acknowledged Thursday he'd love to see how those teams conduct their workouts.
But, no, the Mariners will not be changing up their spring routine anytime soon.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"I would love to see the look on our players' faces when I posted that schedule. And some of our coaches, too," Servais said with a laugh. "That would be wild. But the game is different in that culture. I certainly respect what they do, and I can learn a lot from what they do and how they practice -- we just do it a little differently."
Japanese teams typically work from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, with all the players then heading to a team hotel where they stay together during the spring. Not all of that time is spent on the practice fields, but the Japanese workouts definitely include far more time spent on drills and fundamentals than their counterparts in the United States.
"I've never been through it, but I'd actually like to [see it]," Servais said. "I've heard stories of Japanese teams traveling with portable batting nets and hitting on the rooftops of hotels. I've heard all kinds of stories. They find a way. It's about getting better and that's their way of doing it."
Major League clubs have far shorter days, particularly at the start of camp when only pitchers and catchers are working, and players stay on their own in apartments or condos in the area. Once Cactus League games begin, MLB players are at the facility for 9-10 hours per day as well, but until then, it's a different routine.
Kikuchi is adjusting to the shorter schedule, saying he'll work out on his own as necessary. He was throwing on a backfield Thursday, a day after tossing his first bullpen session off a mound.

"We play the game a little bit differently here," Servais said. "It's one of the things I tried to explain to him yesterday morning. I sat with the calendar and with our schedule behind him and pointed that we are on Feb. 13 and the goal is to get into October.
"It's a long journey and I would much rather players [wanted to work more] than the other way. But right now, it's pitchers and catchers. A lot of what we are doing is educating. The chalk talks, and I know a lot of players don't look at it, but that's practice where we are getting ideas and programs that we really believe in and what we are about it. It's a designated period of time. It's not physical activity, but it's mental activity. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes."
Rain arrives in Valley of the Sun
The Mariners moved up Thursday's practice an hour before the rain started falling more heavily on a wet afternoon, but all 11 pitchers scheduled to throw off the bullpen mounds got their work in.
That group included Félix Hernández and Hunter Strickland, the former Giants reliever who signed a one-year deal and could wind up as the team's closer. Rule 5 Draft pick Brandon Brennan also made his mound debut.

All 32 healthy pitchers in camp have now thrown one bullpen and the rotation will start over on Friday with the first group -- which includes Marco Gonzales, Wade LeBlanc and Mariners No. 1 prospectJustus Sheffield -- taking the mound again for their second sessions.
The goal is to have every pitcher throw several bullpen sessions, as well as at least one live batting practice before Cactus League play opens in one week, on Thursday, Feb. 21, against the A's in Mesa.
Moving parts in the clubhouse
With so many veterans having departed over the offseason, the Mariners clubhouse arrangement has undergone considerable transition as well. Hernandez has been moved into the corner section previously occupied by Robinson Canó.
Kyle Seager's locker was shifted over to where Hernandez had previously sat in recent years.
"I guess I'm moving up in the world," Seager said as he unpacked his bags after arriving Thursday morning.
He was getting help from his 5-year-old son, Crue, who already had inherited the spare open locker adjacent to Seager, complete with a "Crue Seager" nametag.
Dee Gordon was among the other arrivals Thursday, as position players continued showing up prior to Friday's report day. Position players will take physical exams Friday, with the first full-squad workout set for Saturday.

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