The Mariners are back home in Seattle for their 10-game opening homestand at T-Mobile Park, but not without some unease.
The Major League Baseball season little more than a week old, but its sustainability was questioned again last week when commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly told MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark baseball could shut down if the COVID-19 situation around the league is not better controlled.
Cases have increased in recent days after an outbreak in the Marlins’ clubhouse during their first road trip reportedly resulted in at least 21 positive tests in the organization. Phillies and Cardinals personnel also reportedly tested positive for the virus last week.
MLB reported in an update Saturday that after two Cardinals players tested positive last week, the entire team was tested Friday, and rapid test results “indicated that one additional Cardinals player and multiple staff members may be positive.” Saliva tests were not expected to be available until later in the day.
No Phillies players tested positive, the update said. There have been three positives on the staff since the Phillies hosted Miami, but the update said two appear to be false positives, and it is unclear if the third positive resulted from contact with Marlins players and staff.
The Marlins players and staff have been quarantined in Philadelphia for a week, and reported no new positive tests Friday.
No other clubs reported a positive test in Friday’s collections, the update said.
Eight clubs — the Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, Marlins, Nationals, Orioles, Phillies and Yankees — have had their schedules altered by games postponed due to virus concerns.
Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain and Marlins second baseman Isan Diaz became the latest players to opt out of the season Saturday.
The Mariners have not been directly impacted by the situation to this point, and neither have any of the teams remaining on their 60-game schedule, but manager Scott Servais emphasized again Friday afternoon the importance of continuing to follow the league’s health and safety protocols.
While Servais felt Seattle’s players and coaches were diligent on the road after getting “a little too excited” celebrating on the field during their first win in Houston last week, he will continue to address the necessity of abiding by the protocols when at home.
“I’ll continue to have meetings with our guys probably at the beginning of every homestand,” Servais said on a video call with reporters. “I thought we did an excellent job on the road. Sometimes, once you’re kind of locked into the hotel and you’re just going to the ballpark it may be a little bit easier.
“Now that we’re home, certainly families play into that, and some of the guys that don’t have families here have to make really good choices on what they’re doing away from the field. So, I’ll continue to harp on that.
“It only takes one guy making one bad choice that could put us all in a really bad spot, so it’s one of those things we’re going to have to deal with continuously throughout the season, and just remind our guys how important it is in the decisions they’re making.”
The league is reportedly going to begin requiring teams to have a compliance officer on the road to ensure protocols are being followed. Servais said Friday the Mariners’ will have “somebody high up in our front office” travel with them.
“I think we’ve done a better job of doing those things in the dugout and around the clubhouse,” Servais said of the team’s compliance with protocols. “But, it’s something we have to be aware of all the time.”
KYLES KEEP HITTING
The Mariners’ two Kyles — Seager and Lewis — have emerged as a reliable duo in the middle of Seattle’s lineup early on this season.
Seager, the club’s longest-tenured player, was 9-for-31 (.290) entering Saturday night’s game against the A’s with a team-leading four doubles, a homer, eight RBI — he and Lewis were tied for the team lead — a stolen base, three walks and three strikeouts.
Seager has been known in the past to have slow starts to the season, but has been one of Seattle’s most consistent hitters the first week. He supposed maybe that’s because this shortened season is starting in July.
“I guess I like the warm weather,” he joked during a postgame video call with reporters Friday. “It’s been good. You certainly would rather start out well.”
During the three-month COVID-19 shutdown, Seager said he worked with a new velocity machine back home in North Carolina at the recommendation of Seattle’s hitting coaches to try to get ahead in his preparation.
He said he also feels like he’s in a better place physically than he has been in the past.
“I feel healthy,” he said. “I feel better physically. That’s something that’s been a little bit of an issue the last couple years. It’s easier to play when you feel better, so that’s been a good thing.”
Seager also credits his rookie teammate Lewis for setting him up in good situations at the plate.
Lewis has bat in the No. 3 spot ahead of Seager the past several days, and continues to get on base. His on-base percentage entering Saturday was .500.
Lewis was still leading the majors in hits entering the day and was 15-for-33 (.455) with two homers, the eight RBI, three walks and 13 strikeouts his first eight games.
“You want to talk about a hot start? That’s made my life really easy,” Seager said. “It’s nice when there’s a guy on third every single at-bat and I hit a pop up and I get a high-five for it. So, that’s a good thing.
“He’s been incredible. It’s been really clean. He’s not trying to do too much, he’s taking what the pitchers are giving him. The ball comes off his bat extremely well. He’s a big, athletic guy.
“He’s very mature, too. That’s something that’s hard for guys breaking in, and younger players specifically, when you are feeling good you try to do too much and if he takes a swing where he felt like he did too much you see him kind of self-correct really quickly, which is pretty impressive.”
Catcher Austin Nola (knee) returned to the lineup Friday night in Seattle’s home opener and played a full nine innings after missing three games. Servais said Friday the Mariners will continue to evaluate their catching situation in the coming days. Nola is the regular starting with Tom Murphy (foot) still on the injured list. Seattle was also still carrying catchers Joe Hudson and Joe Odom on their 30-man active roster as of Saturday morning. … Shortstop J.P. Crawford was leading the Mariners with a .514 on-base percentage entering Saturday, and has looked comfortable in his new leadoff position. He was 11-for-28 (.393) with a double, two triples, four RBI, two stolen bases, seven walks and three strikeouts entering the day. “He’s been awesome,” Servais said Friday. “Love his competitiveness. That’s what really sticks out to me. He’s getting very external. He’s not thinking about his swing or what the pitcher’s going to do. He’s just up there, he’s being aggressive, he’s looking for a good pitch, and he’s got enough discipline to lay off the ones he knows he can’t handle.” Crawford twisted his ankle during an at-bat Friday, but remained in the game.