However high your expectations are for next season, Seattle Mariners fans, rookie manager Scott Servais sounds ready to embrace them.
“Seattle has not won in a long time,” he said Wednesday in a news conference at baseball’s winter meetings. “And the expectations there, they’re high, from ownership and team president and the fans. They should be.
“It’s time. It’s time to win.”
Some other highlights from Servais’ meeting of the press:
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▪ On identifying a closer: “Right now, is it clearly defined? No, it’s not. Do I feel good that we have a closer? We’ll have somebody to take the ball in the ninth inning, whether it’s Joaquin Benoit or other guys that we acquire.”
▪ On catcher Mike Zunino: “Mike Zunino is going to be a very good major league player. There’s no doubt in my mind, (general manager Jerry Dipoto’s) mind, or anyone else. It’s just when. He will let us know.”
▪ On outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz: “He wants to play in the field. I also want him to play every day. Knowing that the travel in Seattle is rough, there may have to be a few more DH days.”
▪ On Robinson Cano’s recovery from sports hernia surgery: “Health-wise, Robby is great. … Robbie is in a good spot. He knows he got off to a slow start last year. He had a great second half, playing injured. Great player.”
With Ketel Marte projected as the starting shortstop, the Mariners have three players lined up to compete for duty as their utility infielder: Chris Taylor, Luis Sardinas and Shawn O’Malley.
“Luis can really run,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He can pick it. He can throw. He’s played all of the infield positions.
“Chris Taylor has a strong baseball IQ. We know both guys can play shortstop in the big leagues. All three guys can run, but Sardinas and O’Malley are particularly strong runners. Sardinas is a double-plus runner.
“Obviously, they all have something they need to work on. We may bring in a veteran in a nonroster way, but we’re not going to go out and fill that (with another roster spot).”
RULE 5 DRAFT
The Mariners expect to lose outfielder Jabari Blash on Thursday in the Rule 5 draft, which allows clubs to select players who players who are not protected on a 40-man roster after four or five pro seasons.
Players who were 18 or younger when they signed their first contract must be protected after five minor league seasons. Players who were 19 and older must be protected after four seasons.
The Mariners have the 11th pick in the draft, but barring a late roster move will not be entitled to a selection because they have no openings on their 40-man roster.
“We’ve gone through our due diligence to prepare ourselves in the event that we would (make a pick), but at this point it’s highly unlikely,” Dipoto said.
“We’re in the zone now where any guys we clear off the roster to make space, we’d be in danger of losing. We’d lose the depth that we’d like to create. Unless we were absolutely certain on the Rule 5 pick, we wouldn’t take a chance like that.”
Blash, 26, is a six-year pro who hit 32 homers last season in 116 games at Double-A Jackson (60) and Triple-A Tacoma (56). He also batted .271 with a .370 on-base percentage.
Players selected in the draft must be kept in the major leagues for the entire next season season or be offered back to their former team for half of the $50,000 selection price.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners