Last Tuesday, pitchers and catchers reported to Peoria, Arizona; their new home for the next seven weeks. Their entrance marks the official beginning of spring training, and the 2017 season. Much like last year, the team has one common goal in mind, making the playoffs. The players and coaches were met with a new poster hanging outside of Manager Scott Servais’ office that has a simple, yet powerful statement on it; “Whatever It Takes.” This looks to be the team’s motto heading into the season, and after missing the playoffs for the last 15 years this type of inspiration can go a long way.
Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto made a string of roster improvements this off-season. He along with the rest of the organization look forward to seeing how much of a difference the team’s new additions can make come Opening Day. Two new faces were among those who reported, newly acquired Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly will make their first appearances as Mariners this year, joining Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and Felix Hernandez in the starting pitching rotation.
Felix is seeking a better performance in 2017, and has already began to work towards becoming his old self again. The Mariner’s ace had only 11 wins last season, and was out of action for nearly seven weeks with a calf injury. “I’ve got to prove people wrong,” he said when speaking with Seattle Times reporter Ryan Divish about this upcoming chapter in his life. As the face of the franchise, Mariners fans would be more than pleased to see Felix pick his crown back up and take his rightful seat on the throne as the King of the Emerald City.
In the 39 years of professional baseball in Seattle, the Mariners have come short of going to the World Series all 39 times. In 1995 they lost the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, and in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons they lost the same series, both to the New York Yankees. Since that record-breaking 116-win season in 2001, fans here in the Northwest haven’t gotten a taste of October baseball. The Mariners currently have the longest playoff drought, and they are only one of two teams that have never been to the Fall Classic. As year number 40 begins, they are aiming at ending both streaks.
The rest of the squad checked in on Saturday, including two new position players that are sure to bring speed back to Safeco. Shortstop Jean Segura and Outfielder Jarrod Dyson will both debut as Mariners this year, and combined for 63 stolen bases last season. The 2016 Mariners as a team only swiped 56 bags. Both players posted career-highs in hits, doubles, runs batted in, and batting average in 2016, and aim to further improve on these stats in the upcoming season. With the addition of speed to an already powerful lineup, the M’s could find themselves in the playoff hunt once again.
The team’s first Spring game is Saturday, February 25th when they take on their Peoria neighbors, the San Diego Padres. The regular season will begin with two divisional road opponents, and the home opener is Monday, April 10th against the Houston Astros.