Seattle Mariners

‘The versatility he brings is really a bonus.’ Mariners rookie Dylan Moore making early impressions

Mariners’ Dylan Moore fields a ground ball. The Seattle Mariners played the San Diego Padres in a exhibition baseball game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Wash., on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
Mariners’ Dylan Moore fields a ground ball. The Seattle Mariners played the San Diego Padres in a exhibition baseball game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Wash., on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Dylan Moore had seven different baseball gloves stored in his locker at T-Mobile Park this week — some for infield work, some for the days he spends in the outfield.

Moore has more gloves elsewhere, too. He says he probably houses more in the clubhouse than any of his Seattle Mariners teammates.

The 26-year-old is the only position player currently on Seattle’s active roster who is a rookie. And he has perhaps the most challenging role as the club’s super utility player. He knows he has to be ready to play every position.

“You’ve got to stay ready for all of them,” Moore said.

Thursday afternoon, before making his first MLB start in left field, Moore was breaking in one of his outfielder’s gloves he hadn’t used in a while. He made just seven starts at the position in the minors, but said he’s comfortable everywhere on the field.

“It’s part of who I am as a player, so I have to be able to play out there,” he said.

For the Mariners, he has to be able to play anywhere, except perhaps pitcher and catcher. So far this season, Moore has appeared at four positions — third base (seven games), shortstop (four), second (three) and now left (one) — and has seen time as a designated hitter.

Apart from a bizarre ninth inning in March in his first career start — during which he committed three consecutive errors on sharp grounders to third base — Moore has played error-free baseball in the 17 games he’s appeared in.

“The versatility he brings is really a bonus on our team,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

Moore said which positions he gets practice in depends on where he might play in the coming days, but he tries to make his way around the infield and outfield.

“Obviously you can’t do them all in one day, but you kind of strategize what you’re going to go for each day,” Moore said.

And he said he’s had plenty of help working around the field.

“We have great infield and outfield coaches, and guys telling me what to do and how to do it,” Moore said. “It’s easy for me to listen to them and do what I do.”

The consistency Moore showed at the plate Thursday night against Texas is another plus. After recording hits sporadically in his first several appearances, Moore reached base safely four times for the first time in his career against the Rangers.

He recorded a career-high three hits and walked once in a 3-for-4 performance, quickly pushing his season batting average to .226. He is now 7 for 17 with two extra-base hits, three walks and three RBIs.

“It was cool to be able to see the ball well and put a couple of at-bats together,” Moore said after the win. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do all season. It was kind of nice that everything came together.

“I think I had a repeatable swing today that I could match with my approach, and just took it from there. I didn’t think too much, and kind of just went out there with my approach, and I knew where my swing path was going to be, and everything kind of took care of itself.”

How the Mariners have hit as a team so far this season is contagious, Moore says, and being able to individually string together successful at-bats is a confidence boost.

Servais said the Mariners’ early lead — they went on to rout Texas, 14-2 — helped Moore relax at the plate and find more success.

“He needed one of those nights,” Servais said. “Anytime you’re a young player and you’re playing once or twice a week, it’s hard to get a lot going timing-wise.”

Moving forward, Servais is aiming to find ways to keep working Moore into the lineup wherever he can fit.

“I don’t want him to get lost in the shuffle,” Servais said. “He’s a young player. He needs to play. You can’t just sit him for eight, 10, 12 days. We’ve got to keep playing him and giving him opportunity.”

SMITH WORKING ON TIMING

Center fielder Mallex Smith was given a second consecutive day off Friday, after appearing briefly as a pinch-hitter late in Thursday’s win. Smith hasn’t recorded a hit in his past 15 at-bats, or the past six games he’s played in.

“He wants to get it going again,” Servais said. “This guy can hit. He has a track record of hitting. He knows the strike zone. We’ve just got to get him back on the right page.”

Servais said Smith is working on getting his timing back on track at the plate.

“Often times when players start to struggle, ‘It’s my swing and tinkering my swing.’ Their swing is their swing,” Servais said. “Most guys when you see them when they come out of high school or college or whatnot, that’s just how they swing.

“But, the timing issues we talk about, and Mallex is out of whack right now. We need to try some things.”

Smith had an elbow injury that kept him out most of the spring, but hit safely in his first five regular season appearances.

“When we first got him early after limited at-bats, he swung the bat really good out of the chute,” Servais said. “It’s in there. We’ve just got to get him timed up.”

ROSTER MOVES

As expected, the Mariners promoted top prospect Justus Sheffield to Seattle on Friday morning. The 22-year-old left-hander, who made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees last season, is expected to follow starter Yusei Kikuchi in an abbreviated start against the Rangers.

The plan was to have Kikuchi, a rookie from Japan who is adjusting to the normal five-day rotation in the majors, throw one inning before replacing him with Sheffield.

With an appearance Friday, Sheffield is in line to become the fourth-youngest pitcher to appear in the American League this season. He was 0-1 with a 3.93 ERA, 14 walks and 11 strikeouts in four appearances with the Rainiers this season before his call-up.

“Early on he was probably trying to do too much to show everybody that he’s absolutely ready,” Servais said. “I think he’s ready to take the next step in his career. That’s why we acquired him — young guy with some upside that needs to be given an opportunity.”

To make room for Sheffield, the Mariners designated right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong for assignment. Armstrong compiled a 0-1 record and 14.73 ERA in four relief appearances with Seattle this month after returning from an oblique injury.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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