Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford (left) and center fielder Kyle Lewis celebrate a win over the Angels on Aug. 31, 2020, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford (left) and center fielder Kyle Lewis celebrate a win over the Angels on Aug. 31, 2020, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Mariners see development, progress in truncated season

With more talent on the way, Seattle’s rebuilding timeline appears to be coming to fruition.

By Tim Booth / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Sometime around the midpoint of the truncated 60-game season, Scott Servais noticed an obvious shift in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse.

While the focus on development of young players was still there, Servais said it became clear his young team was growing in confidence, and the expectation of just being competitive wasn’t good enough. The Mariners believed they were ready to win.

“I do think we were able to accomplish a lot of what we’re looking to do and maybe it’s happening a little bit quicker than we thought,” Servais said. “So that excites me a ton. I know the mindset of our team shifted. It shifted about halfway through this thing.

“I really felt there was an everyday focus on winning the ball game. And along the way, we were going to focus on getting better no question about it. But the attitude among our players, our coaching staff, it shifted.”

How that shift carries into the 2021 season will be a major determinant in the next stage of the Mariners rebuilding project. Even in just 60 games, Seattle came away from 2020 believing the shortened season was a success in its rebuild plan.

They finished the year 27-33 and were playing meaningful games in the playoff conversation into the final week of the regular season. Marco Gonzales pitched well enough to be in the AL Cy Young Award conversation, although he might not finish in the top five. Kyle Lewis might end up being the AL Rookie of the Year after a breakout season where he proved he can be a force at the plate and be Seattle’s center fielder of the future.

Seattle is still likely two seasons away from rejoining the ranks of legitimate contenders in the AL. But with a bevy of talent still in the minors and likely to make their debuts sometime in 2021, there is optimism that next year could be the season the breakout takes place.

“That’s where you want to be everyday coming into the ballpark feeling you have a chance to win, going about your business knowing that you’re going to win every night,” Servais said.

Starting off

Gonzales was the leader of a rotation that saw its core pieces perform up to or beyond expectations. Gonzales went 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 11 starts, the lowest ERA by a Seattle pitcher since Felix Hernandez had a 2.14 mark in 2014.

The most important performance for the season came from Justus Sheffield. In his first full season, Sheffield was 4-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 10 starts. Sheffield had a rocky first two outings, but had a 2.64 ERA over his final eight starts.

Gonzales, Sheffield and Yusei Kikuchi give Seattle three solid pieces to the rotation with more options on the way.

ROY?

Lewis could be in line to be Seattle’s first Rookie of the Year since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. He started hot, and on Aug. 22, almost one month into the season, was still hitting. 373. He cooled significantly over the final month, but still hit .262 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI.

As important for Seattle was Lewis’ play in center field, which included more than a few highlight moments.

“He took huge strides forward defensively for us and his ability to get out into center field and do a really nice job out there,” Servais said.

Getting established

While both had up-and-down seasons at the plate, the Mariners come out of the year feeling strongly about the long-term prospects of shortstop J.P. Crawford and first baseman Evan White. Crawford had just three errors in 221 chances, while White’s glove at first proved worth the reputation it gained in college and the minors, and made Seattle’s entire infield better.

“What we’ve been able to do defensively has been really fun to watch,” Servais said.

On the farm

One of Seattle’s big questions is when some of its top prospects might reach the majors in 2021. At the top of the list is outfielder Jarred Kelenic, regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball. There was a fleeting thought Seattle could bring Kelenic up this year to help make the charge at a playoff spot, but keeping an extra year of player control seemed the prudent choice.

Along with Kelenic, the Mariners are likely to see pitcher Logan Gilbert, catcher Cal Raleigh and outfielder Taylor Trammell next season, while waiting for the continued development from the likes of Julio Rodriguez, Emerson Hancock and George Kirby.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 2 of the baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Snell strikes out 9, Rays win to pull even in World Series

The Shorewood alum takes a no-hitter into the fifth; Tampa Bay hangs on to beat the Dodgers 6-4.

Tampa Bay Rays' Mike Zunino celebrates his solo home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 7 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
A slice of Everett in this year’s World Series

The Rays’ Mike Zunino and the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor were teammates on the AquaSox in the summer of 2012.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been a huge factor in Seattle’s 5-0 start. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Grading the Seahawks at the bye week

Through five games Seattle is 5-0, and the marks reflect that record.

Lang captures Pro Late Models title at Evergreen Speedway

The Glacier Peak senior won the Central Welding Supply 125 this past Saturday.

Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf, right, catches the game-winning touchdown as Minnesota’s Anthony Harris defends in Seattle’s 27-26 victory over the Vikings on Oct. 11 at CenturyLink Field. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
POLL: What was the Seahawks’ biggest pre-bye moment?

Seattle is 5-0 at its bye, and there has been no shortage of defining plays.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger celebrates his two-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in Game 1 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Dodgers’ stars shine in win over Rays in Game 1 of World Series

Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger homer to back a great start from Clayton Kershaw in L.A.’s 8-3 win.

Ryan Leveck makes a jump as he makes his way down the slopes during the opening day of Stevens Pass on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 in Stevens Pass, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald).
You will need a reservation to ski at Stevens Pass this year

But despite capacity restrictions, the resort expects most skiers and boarders will get a lift ticket.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson reacts after throwing the game winning touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 27-26. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Wilson has been ‘as good as you can get’ for Seahawks

The star quarterback’s brilliant play has Seattle at 5-0 entering the bye week.

The Central Welding Supply 125, which serves as the season finale at Evergreen Speedway, will attempt to run on Saturday, after being bumped postponed last weekend due to weather.
Season finale set for Saturday at Evergreen Speedway

The Central Welding Supply 125 was supposed to run last weekend, but was postponed due to weather.

Washington quarterbacks Kevin Thomson, left, and Jacob Sirmon, right, drop to pass during NCAA college football practice, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Who will be the guy at quarterback for UW?

New head coach Jimmy Lake and offensive coordinator John Donovan are in no rush to name a starter.

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, left, smiles at Breanna Stewart after the team defeated the Las Vegas Aces to win basketball’s WNBA championship last week in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
POLL RESULTS: 2020 deemed the greatest team in Storm history

By a two-to-one margin, Seattle’s 2020 championship team out-polled the 2010 titlists.

Everett Silvertips' Jake Christiansen takes a shot on goal during the game on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fans or no fans, Silvertips’ season will begin in January

The WHL says that its previous requirement of at least 50% capacity in arenas is no longer an issue.