PEORIA, Ariz. — The irritation in Scott Servais’ voice was noticeable as he discussed the situation.
During Wednesday morning’s media gathering, he was asked about a potential roster rule mandating that a team must carry at least 13 position players and only 13 pitchers, Servais expressed his displeasure.
“I’m not happy about it,” he said. “I think it’s a horrific idea. And I’ll go on the record, saying I think it’s brutal; you should not tell teams how to make up their rosters. I understand why they’re thinking about doing it. But especially where we’re at with a shortened spring to do that, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Servais wants the option of carrying 14 pitchers and only 12 position players.
“Everybody has the DH now, so how much does that extra bench player really play? Yeah, not a lot,” Servais said.
But an extra relief pitcher will get used.
“It changes everything,” Servais said. “They’re trying to get starting pitchers to stay in the game longer, but you should be trying to keep people healthy, certainly as you go through April and May.”
On Saturday morning, Servais was asked about setting up his roster and clarified a few things.
“It was brought to my attention that after I made the comment the other day that nothing has been set in stone yet as far as the position player/pitcher limits and what the roster looks like,” he said. “That hasn’t been set up yet. We’ll see how that plays out, if it’s still up to the teams to put their rosters together or if it will be mandated by the league.”
If MLB doesn’t force limits, the Mariners will likely go with 14 pitchers — five starters and nine relievers — with only three bench players.
“I just think the value of the having the extra pitcher will really help us and other teams,” he said. “I would suspect other teams will do it as well. I just don’t know if that extra position player gets a chance to play too much. The teams that could take advantage of it is if you’re straight platooning in a lot of different spots. It’s nice to have the extra bat. I’m not sure how much platooning we’re going to do in that regard.”
Surely MLB’s deciding forces wouldn’t make a decision that seems illogical and goes against what is preferred or best for the teams, right?
Wait, don’t answer that.
With that in mind, and until a decision is made on roster limits, the first projected opening day roster for the Mariners will follow Servais’ plan of 14 pitchers and 12 position players.
Starting rotation (5)
* Robbie Ray, LHP
* Marco Gonzales, LHP
* Chris Flexen, RHP
* Logan Gilbert, RHP
* Matt Brash, RHP
Notes: Four of the five spots are locked in with the addition of Ray and Gonzales, Flexen and Gilbert returning from last season. Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners president of baseball operations, has said multiple times in the past week that he would like to add another starting pitcher that could slot near the top of the rotation. The possible targets include Oakland’s Frankie Montas or Sean Manaea and Cincinnati’s Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo. The asking price in prospect return will be determinant on a deal getting done.
Until then or if a trade can’t be made, the Mariners will leave the last spot in the rotation up for competition. Lefties Justus Sheffield and Nick Margevicius, who both had stints in the rotation, will get a look. But the Mariners will also let their top three starting pitching prospects — right-handers George Kirby, Matt Brash and Levi Stoudt — vie for the spot. Of that group, Brash is already on the 40-man roster, having been called up for the final week of the 2021 season. Though he didn’t pitch in a MLB game.
All three pitchers are going to have their overall innings total monitored. The easiest way to do that is in the minor leagues. If Seattle wants Kirby available for use in September and possibly the postseason, they might start him at Class AA Arkansas for the first month of the season.
* Ken Giles, RHP
* Paul Sewald, RHP
* Drew Steckenrider, RHP
* Erik Swanson, RHP
* Diego Castillo, RHP
* Andres Munoz, RHP
* Yohan Ramirez, RHP
* Anthony Misiewicz, LHP
* Nick Margevicius, LHP
Notes: This roster doesn’t include right-handed setup man Casey Sadler, who was one of the Mariners most effective relievers last season. Usually pitching in the seventh or eighth inning before Steckenrider and Sewald, Sadler didn’t allow a run in his last 29 appearances (27.2 innings pitched) of the 2021 season, which is a franchise record. But Sadler won’t be an option this year after it was announced Sunday that he needs season-ending surgery on his right shoulder.
Giles and Munoz, bring two more power arms to the bullpen. The last spot in the bullpen will likely go to a lefty that can pitch multiple innings. Margevicius or Sheffield fill that role easily. Given his age and his past command issues, Sheffield would likely be sent to Tacoma to remain stretched out in the Rainiers starting rotation.
* Jarred Kelenic, CF/LF
* Mitch Haniger, RF
* Jesse Winker, LF
* Julio Rodriguez, CF/RF
Notes: Yes, this projection has Rodriguez, the Mariners’ most highly regarded prospect since Alex Rodriguez, making the opening day roster. No, it’s not simply based on his laser of a three-run homer in his first at-bat of spring training — though it must be factored into account.
With Kyle Lewis still limited in his on-field activity during workouts and not expected to be ready to play on opening day, there is an open spot for an outfielder. Rodriguez is the best remaining outfielder to choose from based on pure talent and potential. Yes, veteran nonroster invite Steven Souza Jr., who hit a grand slam Saturday, and Taylor Trammell, the Mariners starting center fielder on opening day in 2021, have more experience. But Rodriguez could make an improved lineup that much better. Also his ability to handle center-field duties makes him a logical choice.
If Rodriguez plays anywhere near his potential this spring, the Mariners should put him on the opening day roster and not look back — service time be damned.
So how would they make it work to get everyone at-bats?
“We don’t have a set-in-stone DH,” Servais said. “So I want to use that position something you can rotate guys through. I feel like we did a nice job with Haniger last year. Along those lines, Julio, when he does show up, you may have a Kelenic DH day. We played Jared every day when he was in the big leagues last year because we really had nobody else to put in the center field at that time. It just gives you more options in how you work guys through.”
* Ty France, 1B
* Adam Frazier, 2B
* J.P. Crawford, SS
* Eugenio Suárez, 3B
* Dylan Moore, utility
* Abraham Toro, utility
Notes: This group is pretty set with Moore and Toro as the bench players. Moore can handle shortstop and outfield if needed while Toro is starting to learn some first base.
* Tom Murphy
* Luis Torrens
Notes: The Mariners can’t use Torrens as a full-time DH like they did at the end of last season. He will have to catch in games to find playing times. Given his struggles at the plate last season, Cal Raleigh will likely start at Class AAA Tacoma to get everyday playing time.
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