The Seattle Mariners held a Zoom press conference on Thursday morning, allowing some members of the local media to fire questions at Marco Gonzales, Kyle Seager, and J.P. Crawford. Each player spoke for roughly ten to fifteen minutes, with Seager and Crawford dialing in remotely while Gonzales, who lives in the area year-round, was the lone member to physically call in from T-Mobile Park.
Gonzales strode to the podium sporting a full head of quarantine hair and took a very no-nonsense approach to his answers. After removing his protective COVID mask, Gonzales was asked how he feels about ramping up for a full season after the pandemic severely shortened the last one.
“I’m planning for a marathon,” Gonzales said. “Last year was a little bit of a sprint. This year I need my legs under me a little more, and a little more volume on the arm.” The Mariners’ ace mentioned that he began his throwing program a little earlier than he normally would have and tried to put on some muscle to carry him through the 162-game slog. On his day-to-day work life, and how it will be impacted by the Mariners’ likely use of a six-man starting rotation, Gonzales was blunt.
“I appreciate the question,” Gonzales stated. “But it’s not my job to comment on that sort of thing. My job is to take the ball whenever it’s given to me and go out and win a ball game. I’m not going to comment on the structure of our rotation.”
On a lighter note, the Gonzaga alum did comment on his tweet exchange with Taijuan Walker, who at this moment is still a free agent.
Nah man! You deserve a spot! Come back to me we’ll take the AL West.— Marco Gonzales (@MarcoGonzales_) January 17, 2021
“Me and Taijuan love to have fun,” he joked. “He’s one of my close friends and I would love to have him back. We have an opportunity to really make a statement in this division with the young talent and the culture we’ve begun to create here. We are on our way. I won’t settle for anything less.”
Gonzales ended his session by talking about that young nucleus and how they can shape the Mariners future, citing that the team had no fear last season when playing stacked National League teams like the Dodgers and Padres.
“We saw a great culture of competitors who are continuing to grow together. We saw some swagger out of them, to be honest. These are some kids that have confidence and really love playing.”
Other highlights from Gonzales’ availability included comments about how he’s not much of a “pitch shaper”, Kyle Seager not getting enough recognition on the work he does behind the scenes – specifically mentioning Daniel Vogelbach as someone who Seager helped – and a brief statement about the club hiring Hisashi Iwakuma as a Special Assignment Coach.
“I haven’t heard exactly what his role will be. But, I’m assuming wherever he’ll be, he’ll be the perfect fit character-wise,” Gonzales said of his former teammate. “For our group as a whole, his mindset is great. He’s such a positive person and such a light to be around.”
Seager, who seemed to be sitting on his front porch talking into a cellphone positioned below his chin, was refreshingly candid during his interview. Heading into his eleventh season with the Mariners, the team’s longtime third baseman appeared wonderfully at ease with the local media members who have covered his career. When asked right off the bat how he fits into the Mariners’ rebuild as the team gets younger and younger, especially given that he’s on the last year of his contract, Seager chuckled and said, “Man, we’re getting right after it! I hear ya.”
“That comes with the territory,” Seager said of the speculation surrounding his future. “We haven’t been winning. When you’re not winning, you rebuild. I think I still certainly have a role here. But like you said, this could potentially be my last year [with the Mariners].”
He went on to say that he physically still feels great and enjoyed playing in a talented infield that includes Gold Glove winners J.P. Crawford and Evan White, while making sure to shout out infield coach Perry Hill for the work he put in. “He’s pretty special at this,” Seager said of Seattle’s fielding guru. In one of the more humorous moments of the afternoon, Seager also quipped that he deserves a sliver of the credit for Crawford and White’s Gold Gloves, as he allowed Crawford to field everything on the left side of the infield and made some bad throws to first that allowed White to showcase his abilities.
Given his long tenure with Seattle and the regime changes he’s endured, Seager has the most interesting perspective on the team of anyone currently on the Mariners’ roster. In watching Crawford “clean up” some of the defensive elements of his game, Seager invoked a former Mariners’ defensive wizard that played beside him for two and a half years.
“When you practice like that, you can put yourself in the right position for your natural athletic ability to take over. That’s something I remember Brendan Ryan used to do. He used to do the craziest things in practice and then all of a sudden he’d come out and do it at 7:00 and everyone would ooh and ahh. J.P. has all the physical tools you would possibly want.”
In the back end of his presser, Seager admitted that he now understands exactly how Félix Hernández felt in 2019 as he played out the final year of his contract, saying it’s definitely a different feeling but also out of his control, while making sure to mention that he’s going to do his job every single day and let the other stuff get figured out later. In between some brief interruptions from his children, the 33-year-old ended by walking the media through his own personal feelings.
“Physically I feel good. I’ve learned a lot over the years about myself. The nutrition element has been a big part for me. I still have every intention of continuing to play.”
Wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt and a chain with his number 3 dangling brightly, J.P. Crawford closed out the afternoon with some talk about his offseason preparation. Crawford mentioned that he’s been working out every day at the team’s facility with Evan White and Sam Haggerty.
“The ball’s jumping off [my bat] better than it ever has before,” Crawford said proudly. “I’m really excited to get this year going.” The complex provides a nice home base for Crawford and the other Mariners who are taking advantage of it. When Shannon Drayer asked if Crawford still had a hitting net stationed in his living room, the shortstop laughed and admitted that he had ditched that work from home setup.
Echoing some things that Gonzales and Seager said as well, Crawford shared that he had put some muscle on, particularly ones that he “never had before”. Following some typical athlete platitudes about working to get better every day and being amped about the upcoming season, Crawford delivered a message that Mariner fans have been fed time and time again, but rarely have seen it with any conviction.
“2021 is about trying to win,” Crawford explained. “We have the team. We made some key pickups. It’s time to go. It’s time to win. Everyone wants to do it. That’s been my main goal since I got here. I’m ready. Let’s go, let’s start winning.”
If the Mariners are to cash in on those feelings, the trio of Gonzales, Seager, and Crawford will need to follow their aspirational statements with a full season of strong, inspiring play.