SEATTLE (AP) – Jerry Dipoto never stops tinkering with the Seattle Mariners roster.
Even if it comes at the strangest of times.
Just minutes after Dipoto walked off the podium Thursday during the Mariners’ annual pre-spring training event – and after Dipoto spent nearly a half-hour talking about another offseason roster makeover – the Mariners announced yet another roster change.
While claiming catcher Tuffy Gosewisch off waivers from Atlanta likely won’t be the tipping point in whether the Mariners end the longest playoff drought in baseball, it’s another example of Dipoto’s constant fiddling to try to make Seattle better.
“I think the tweaks have put us in a pretty good position,” Dipoto said. “We experienced a 10-game improvement over 2015. Obviously a second-place finish with 86 wins means you’re the first loser, so we’re not particularly excited about a repeat performance. We would like to get better. We maintained what we think are the good parts of our team and this was kind of inevitable reality – more change.”
Seattle may not have been expected to be so active in the offseason after doing an extensive rebuild before the 2016 season. Dipoto scoffed at that idea Thursday and acknowledged that the 2016 season, when Seattle finished with 86 wins and was in playoff contention until the next-to-last day of the season, was a bridge to what the Mariners were hoping to accomplish long-term.
Dipoto and the Mariners completed 11 trades to go along with a handful of minor free agent signings this offseason with the goal of making Seattle more athletic and versatile defensively – especially in the outfield – and to provide more options for the starting rotation.
The biggest deals landed Seattle two new outfielders in expected starters Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger, starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly and another potent hitter in Jean Segura.
“What we did from 2015 to 2016 was a lot of short-term moves. It was one-year contracts with free agents. … All of them did a wonderful job to help bridge and create a road to get to this 2017 club,” Dipoto said.
Seattle will go to spring training in a few weeks with less uncertainty than a season ago, despite a roster that’s again been remodeled. Scott Servais is no longer a first-time manager and his success in getting Seattle’s stars on board with his methods in a strong first season should help the Mariners pick up where they left off at the end of last year.
Much of the focus this spring will be on Felix Hernandez coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro. Hernandez was slowed by a calf injury last season, but even when healthy had uncharacteristic struggles. Hernandez’s 3.82 ERA was the highest since 2006, his first full season in the majors, and he allowed a career-high 3.8 walks per nine innings.
Hernandez has spent the offseason working out with the same trainer used by teammates Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano and the reports are that the focus on core and leg strengthening is working. Hernandez is also being pushed in his offseason work by the World Baseball Classic, where he’s expected to pitch for Venezuela.
“You have to keep in mind how high the bar is for Felix Hernandez. Felix is still really good and he’s going to be the anchor of that rotation, he’s going to start opening day, he is going to be our guy,” Servais said. “It may not be at the level it was in the past, but that level is unbelievable. He’s anxious to get after it.”
NOTES: Seattle had only two significant offseason surgeries: RHP Steve Cishek (hip) and RHP Tony Zych (shoulder). Both will be limited early in spring training. … Prospect Kyle Lewis (knee), Seattle’s first-round pick in last year’s amateur draft, should be able to return sometime around midseason from a major knee injury suffered last summer. … Seattle designated RHP Jonathan Aro to clear a roster spot for Gosewisch.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.