Servais interested to see how Ohtani fares

Japanese star will try to pitch and hit when he comes to MLB

September 13th, 2017

ARLINGTON -- Scott Servais has no idea where Japanese star Shohei Ohtani will land, but with word emerging Wednesday that the two-way standout is expected to enter the posting system and make himself available to Major League teams this winter, the Mariners' manager is as curious as everyone about how he might be used by whichever team signs him.

Servais recalls trying to set a young Mitch Moreland up to try to be a two-way player in the Minor Leagues when the Rangers drafted the Mississippi State standout in 2007. But he said that experiment didn't get far, as Moreland opted to just stick with hitting and is now in his eighth year as a Major League first baseman.

Servais isn't opposed to the idea of a two-way player, and figures Ohtani -- a 23-year-old with a 100-plus-mph fastball and an accomplished power bat in Japan -- could give it a shot. But like many in MLB, he wonders if Ohtani will eventually pick either hitting or pitching and stick with it.

"I don't put anything past anybody anymore, the way some of these players are wired and how talented they are," Servais said. "But it's really difficult. As hard as it is to hit and be productive there every day, it's just as hard to pitch. It's not an easy game, and these are the best in the world out here every day. It's very competitive, there's a lot at stake. We'll see. Expectations will be very high, whoever he lands with, no doubt."

Servais said there would be challenges for any pitcher to be in the regular lineup on the days he's not starting.

"I don't know how teams would do it, but is he DHing the day before he pitches?" Servais said. "Now, he fouls a ball off his shin. What does that do to you the next day? He's limping around the clubhouse when he comes in. ... 'Uh oh, who is going to start for us tonight?'

"Or he gets hit by a pitch. Those are the type of things you'd worry about it. It affects the construction of your 25-man roster, how you're going there, whether he's an outfielder or DH, or not doing anything offensively."

As for Moreland? Servais said he pitched in college and threw 92-94 mph with a good slider, and there was thought that his quickest path to the Majors might be as a left-handed hurler.

"We tried to put a plan together to send him to Bakersfield in the Cal League to do both," said Servais, who was the Rangers' director of player development at the time. "Two days before Spring Training broke, he pulled me aside and said, 'I appreciate it. But I think I can hit. I want to try hitting first, I can always go back to pitching.' He went out, did his thing and the rest is history."

Worth noting

• Reliever Tony Zych didn't make the road trip with the Mariners, but is still working toward returning at some point this season, after being sidelined by a strained flexor bundle in his right elbow since Aug. 19. Servais said MRIs haven't shown any structural damage, so it's a matter of Zych being able to throw without any discomfort before he ramps things back up.

• Starter threw 10 pitches off the bullpen mound in Arlington on Wednesday in his final tune-up before coming off the disabled list to start Friday in Houston, and said he's eager to return to action.

"It's just around the corner. I'm excited and ready to get back," said Paxton, who has been sidelined since Aug. 11 with a strained pectoral muscle.

• Servais said a decision would likely come by Thursday on who'll get the start Sunday in Houston between and . Miranda lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his start Monday against the Rangers, with Moore pitching six innings of one-hit relief. Miranda is the only Mariners starter to not miss a turn this season.