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Mariners manager Scott Servais ‘looking forward to 2021,’ preparing for a full 162-game season

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 17, 2020

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais walks to the dugout after making a pitching change during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais walks to the dugout after making a pitching change during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais held his first media session since the season finale Sept. 27, but there wasn’t much news to talk about, and the most notable thing might have been that the session was on a Zoom call from T-Mobile Park instead of from the winter meetings in Texas.

“All right, Happy Holidays and welcome to the winter meetings,” Servais said from Seattle because the coronavirus caused the winter meetings in Dallas to be canceled. “Obviously, we are looking forward to 2021, the way our season ended up on a positive note, and the award season, which has been very kind to us. We were excited about some of our guys getting recognized there with the Gold Gloves and the Rookie of the Year.

“We’ve got a lot to build on. We’re working through the offseason here. As you’ve seen, we’ve added some pitching here recently. And you know, hopefully we’ll add a little bit more as we go along.”

Servais was quite pleased with the additions of two right-handed relievers – Rafael Montero via a trade with the Rangers and Keynan Middleton, who signed as a free agent – in the past two days.

“We are really excited by the addition of both those guys,” Servais said. “Certainly, Montero had a really good season, (a) shortened season (like) everybody last year. But we like his stuff and what he brings to the mix, and he’s got a little experience as well. It’s a great fit.

“And I have history with Keynan Middleton. I was with the Angels when we first drafted him, so knowing him a little bit and how he’s wired, I think it’s a really good opportunity for people to come in, join our bullpen and take on significant roles if they throw the ball well.”

There are reports that MLB owners might try to delay the start of spring training and shorten the 2021 season by waiting until all players and staff are vaccinated. Servais said he was aware of the rumors, but has told his players to prepare as if they don’t exist.

“We’re going about this offseason as we would a normal offseason,” Servais said. “As far as our pitchers getting on their throwing programs and telling everybody that to plan on it being mid-February. I think we’ll have a little clearer idea once we get past the first of the year. … Right now, we’re going as scheduled and planning on playing a 162-game season, but you have to be adaptable. That’s one thing I’ve learned about 2020. And we know it’s going to play into 2021 a little bit as well.”

With the push for players to get the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine, Servais was asked what he might do if players refused to take it.

“When the time is right, and when it is available to myself and our players, then we’ll discuss it,” he said. “But like I have done with a lot of issues like this, those are all individual choices, whether players want to take it or not. … Certainly, the health-care workers around our country need to get it first. There’s no question about that. Senior citizens and people that are high-risk need to get it first. Baseball is probably down the list a little bit.”

Servais was asked if he would take the vaccination.

“Looking at everything around it, I probably will, when the time is right,” he said.

Of the notable players with injuries, the expectation is that outfielder Mitch Haniger (multiple surgeries), catcher Tom Murphy (fractured foot) and Shed Long (shin surgery) will be ready to go when position players report in mid-February. Haniger used last season to recover from surgeries to repair a torn intercostal muscle and repair a disc issue in his back.

“He’s about as excited as everybody,” Servais said. “His workouts are going on great. We saw a little video, you may have seen it on Instagram. He’s got all of his strength back. He’s starting to pick up his baseball activity. He’s had an opportunity to spend some time with (hitting coach) Tim Laker, (and) talking to our hitting guys. They’ve been in constant communication with Mitch as well.

“We’re just trying to take it slow with him. …. But he’s in a really good spot physically and mentally.”

Murphy suffered his injury during summer camp and couldn’t get the foot to heal.

“Murph is a full-go,” Servais said. “He’s 100% weight-bearing on it, doing his running, doing his full workouts. … He feels great and is very anxious. It’s hard for players to sit out a whole year.”

The two veterans would be massive upgrades to the Mariners’ lineup.

“He and Mitch are going to be as excited as anybody to get to spring training and just be part of the group again,” Servais said. “We’re looking forward to both those guys coming back and being regular contributors for us.”

Long had a stress fracture in his right shin that ended his season and required a steel plate to be inserted.

“He’s up and running and just starting to get into baseball activity,” Servais said.

After being handed the starting second base job last season and struggling, Long will compete with Dylan Moore for that role in 2021.

“There’s always competition for playing time,” Servais said. “At this time a year ago, we were committed to Shed and were gonna give him everyday at-bats, which is what we did. He didn’t make adjustments, really never got going offensively. To Shed’s credit, I thought he made huge strides defensively.”

Moore seems to have the advantage based on his strong season in 2020.

“As we look forward, Dylan Moore had an outstanding offensive season, he really did,” Servais said. “He plays all over the field. It’s a great strength of his and one that’s nice to have as a manager. We can plug that guy in anywhere. And I don’t want to take that away from Dylan. He’s been more consistent throughout the last season than Shed.

“They’ll both get chances in spring training to play a bunch and we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. But Dylan has earned the right to get more regular time at second base.”

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