Evan White and the Mariners will begin intrasquad games Friday at T-Mobile Park. (Getty)
It won’t quite be a Cactus League contest played in a stadium in Arizona, but to a man the Mariners are looking forward to their first “game” in 121 days.
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“It’s been really fun to see the intensity pick up,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Thursday morning, a day ahead of the Mariners’ first intrasquad game of Summer Camp. “The banter back and forth, the smack talking. These guys are looking to turn up the intensity as we start to get into these games.”
“These games,” the first of which will air at 2:30 p.m. Friday on 710 ESPN Seattle (with Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith on the call), will be played every day (with the exception of a day off July 17) until the team leaves for the July 24 season opener in Houston.
While games against opponents in different uniforms are always preferred over games against teammates, this is what baseball is limited to with teams getting ready for the 60-game season in their home ballparks. Although three exhibition games against other MLB teams are allowed before the regular season, for geographic reasons that is impossible for the Mariners.
What to expect
Games will be played in the afternoons to early evenings, with those who are not scheduled to play getting their work in during a morning session. The No. 1 goal will be what it has been since the start of camp: do what they can to ensure everyone stays healthy. One way to do that is to keep the groups in the stadium at any one time as small as possible. So who plays?
The priority will be getting the big leaguers ready for the season with the Mariners hoping to get the starting pitchers two to three starts, relievers five to six appearances and the regulars in the lineup 30 at-bats. This doesn’t mean you won’t see the prospects, however, as getting them work in a lost minor league season is also very important.
Length of games
Most of these games will be more in the five to seven innings range. Whereas the younger players typically get seen in the later innings of spring training games, they shouldn’t miss much as the Mariners will need to field two teams for the intrasquad games.
Don’t count on three outs meaning that the inning is over. If a pitcher needs more pitches he could have out No. 3 step back in there. Some innings will have four or five outs. Also, Servais plans to run drills at the end of every half inning.
“We are going to set up situations,” he said. “We are going to work on our bunt defenses. We will have guys run out to the bases and we will have a live bunter in there and we will play it like a game. We will work on different things each day.”
The Mariners are hoping to have MLB umpires as soon as early next week for the intrasquad games. Umpires are permitted to work games close to home and as fortune would have it, the Mariners have three: Mike Muchlinski, Quinn Wolcott and Tripp Gibson all live in the area. The umpires, who are considered Tier 1 personnel, will have to clear testing, the same intake process that the Tier 1 and 2 players and staff members went through, before being allowed to call action on the field.
In spring training it’s not uncommon to see a jam-packed dugout which obviously cannot happen now. The MLB/MLBPA health and safety handbook maps out dugout seating for staff and those who are playing. The manager has a certain area where he needs to be and only a few coaches can be anywhere near him. A good number of the coaches who are in camp will be sitting in the stands as will Servais at times as he looks to give some of the younger coaches the opportunity to get the feel of the dugout in a game.
The seating, entering and exiting the dugout, hand washing or sanitizing each half inning, even grabbing your own glove instead of having a teammate bring it to you will all be new for the players. It is of vital importance that they become comfortable with the new rules.
“I think we have done a really good job so far in following all of the protocols and we will continue to do those during the games,” said Servais. “We have got to practice them because that is what is going to happen in the regular season.”
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