Third baseman Kyle Seager looks around the Mariners’ spring clubhouse these days and, well, it seems depleted. No Felix Hernandez. No Robinson Cano. No Nelson Cruz. No Jean Segura.
The World Baseball Classic is about grab baseball’s attention over the next few weeks even as Seager grinds away in an effort to erase the sour taste remaining from his career-worst 22 errors a year ago.
Twenty-two — the most among American League third basemen and coming just two seasons removed from winning a Gold Glove in 2014 for defensive excellence when he committed just eight errors.
Awful. No argument. Least of all from Seager. But that’s not the whole story.
Seager also graded out as having the best range among all AL third basemen while ranking first in assists, putouts and double plays turned. It was no real surprise, therefore, that he was one of three Gold Glove finalists.
Try to square that dichotomy.
"It was a strange season," Seager admitted, "in the sense that I’m thinking it was very negative, and sabermetrics was saying it was a positive. For me, I was looking more at the errors and how I can get rid of those."
That work started late last season, under the guidance of bench coach Tim Bogar, continued through the offseason and now, with extra emphasis, into this spring. The problem, as Seager readily admits, occurs on grounders to his left.
"It was basically a bad step that led to two or three bad steps," he said. "Third base is mostly reaction. There are certain balls where, if you make the right first move, the play looks extremely easy and you don’t even realize it was a hard play.
"If you make the wrong move, then it looks like a very difficult play. I made plays look a lot harder than they needed to."
The correct footwork on some plays is to take a step back to your left in order to attack the ball from a better angle. Seager drifted into a habit where he was crossing over laterally rather than stepping back.
"I was putting myself in a really bad position to where my hands weren’t free. I wasn’t free to move. I was getting a lot of in-between hops. Just putting myself in a bad position."
Short or in-between hops are an unavoidable dilemma for every infielder, but Seager found it exasperating that he was creating that problem unnecessarily through poor footwork.
"Oh, I did it numerous times," he said. "I’ve watched way too many videos of me putting myself in that position. It’s something that was first brought up to me by (former infield coach) Chris Woodward a couple of years back.
"He brought it up to me, and he was phenomenal with it. He showed me different things that I had never thought of."
Seager stressed the importance of Woodward’s coaching after winning his Gold Glove, but Woodward departed after the 2015 season in order to join the Los Angeles Dodgers’ coaching staff under new manager Dave Roberts.
Whether Woodward would have seen early problem signs in his former pupil is anybody’s guess but, as Seager’s errors mounted, Bogar stepped in.
"First of all," Bogar said, "I’m working with a guy who is wearing gold on his glove. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just reminders. Over time, things need to be refreshed. That’s all it is.
"It’s just like hitting. You can go into a fielding slump, too. That was just part of the fielding slump. He couldn’t feel what he was doing. Once we pointed it out, he’s been fantastic."
Seager committed no errors in 62 chances over his final 20 games, and he’s been smooth through the first week-plus of Cactus League competition.
"I was searching last year and couldn’t get it right," he said, "but I had a couple of really good talks with Bogie about it. He got me doing some drills and stuff, and we’ve been doing it all spring as well.
"It’s making that move (to his left) more comfortable."
Seager said being cited as a Gold Glove finalist, announced in November, eased the sting from those 22 errors — but only a little.
"I was certainly honored to be on there," he said. "It’s an unbelievable list to be on (with winner Adrian Beltre and Baltimore’s Manny Machado). Those guys are phenomenal, and I have a lot of respect for them.
"It was just hard for me to get past the errors, to be honest with you."
NO CUTS IMMINENT
The start of minor-league workouts typically coincides with a series of cuts from the big-league camp roster.
Not this year.
While minor-league pitchers and catchers officially report Monday, the Mariners aren’t likely to begin personnel moves for several days. The main reason is the departure of so many players to the World Baseball Classic.
Simply put, the Mariners need bodies. They are already issuing numerous one-day promotions from their minor-league minicamp to fill out for their game rosters. That is expected to continue for at least another week.
"All of our (big-league camp) guys are in game mode," manager Scott Servais said. "To send them back to the minors leagues to just work out for five or six days doesn’t make a lot of sense.
"Until (the minor-league teams) get close to their game schedule, I wouldn’t look at us as having a lot of cuts."
The minor-league spring schedules begin March 18, and the WBC concludes March 22.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners