Heston carving out revival in Seattle

Heston carving out revival in Seattle

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Two years ago, Chris Heston was a promising right-hander, who won 12 games for the Giants, including a no-hitter in an outstanding rookie season.

Now the 28-year-old from Florida finds himself trying to carve out a new niche for himself with the Mariners, one of a handful of starters acquired by general manager Jerry Dipoto during the offseason to add rotation depth to the organization.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

AL-inclusive: Everyone has eyes on West title

AL-inclusive: Everyone has eyes on West title

PHOENIX -- Jerry Dipoto knows that the Astros are favored to win the American League West, and if baseball analysts aren't talking about Jose Altuve's budding powerhouse, they're focused on the Rangers. Why not? They've won the AL West two years in a row.

Dipoto hides his confidence with a sheepish grin.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vogelbach flexing footwork, flexibility in camp

Results of offseason workouts impressing Servais

Vogelbach flexing footwork, flexibility in camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach has always been a big kid with big aspirations. So the fact that he's now one of the biggest question marks in the Mariners' equation this season as an unproven rookie first baseman doesn't phase him in the least.

Listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, the 24-year-old doesn't fit the mold of the typical Major League first baseman. But he pushed all winter in Florida to improve his flexibility and footwork to give himself the best chance possible this year, and he is eager to see how things play out on the practice fields of the Peoria Sports Complex.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners hope Martin arrives soon

Mariners hope Martin arrives soon

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Center fielder Leonys Martin, who has been excused from the start of Mariners camp for personal reasons, could rejoin the team as soon as Wednesday, according to manager Scott Servais.

The Mariners have had no comment on Martin's absence, other than saying he's taking care of some personal business. But the 28-year-old testified on Tuesday in a trial that is underway in Miami for agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada, who are accused of conspiracy and running a smuggling operation that brought a dozen Cuban players to America, including Martin.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cishek excited about first throws of spring

Reliever recovering from microfracture hip surgery

Cishek excited about first throws of spring

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Playing catch may not seem like a huge deal for most Major League pitchers, but Mariners reliever Steve Cishek took great joy in an easy 25-toss session with one of the team's trainers on a side field behind the rest of his teammates Tuesday.

After undergoing microfracture hip surgery in October, this was Cishek's first chance to throw, and he began his Spring Training in an admitted small step in a recovery process he hopes gets him back on the mound in the opening months of the regular season.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Impactful Seager crucial to middle of lineup

Impactful Seager crucial to middle of lineup

PEORIA, Ariz. -- On a team with a few big-time stars in Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez, he's not the first name that pops up when people talk about Mariners baseball. But don't underestimate the impact of Kyle Seager on Seattle's club and its chances in 2017.

"I think he is underappreciated," manager Scott Servais said when asked about his third baseman's role. "He's a huge part of what we do here. The energy that he brings, how he goes about his business. I appreciate it, every day being able to write his name in the lineup. It's a great feeling."

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mather: Mariners fans deserve October baseball

Mather: Mariners fans deserve October baseball

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kevin Mather is beginning his third season as Mariners president, which puts him in perfect position to pass on a Presidents Day message for Seattle baseball fans.

The Mariners have made a host of changes to their organization since Mather replaced the retiring Chuck Armstrong. MLB.com asked him to share his thoughts as the team prepares to embark on the 2017 campaign.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Icebreaker opens first full-squad workout

Icebreaker opens first full-squad workout

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After a rainy weekend slowed the start of Mariners camp, the team took the field for its first full-squad workout on Monday under mostly sunny skies as the action heated up quickly at the club's Peoria Sports Complex.

"It felt good to put the cleats back on and get out there and move around a little bit and get the blood flowing again," infielder Shawn O'Malley said. "Baseball season is here. Another year. The sun was out, and it's good."

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cruz says Mariners are 'more ready' in 2017

Slugger excited to defend World Baseball Classic crown with Dominican

Cruz says Mariners are 'more ready' in 2017

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Nelson Cruz had only been back at Mariners camp for a day, but the slugger has already adopted manager Scott Servais' new slogan for 2017: "Whatever it takes."

For Cruz, that fits right with his professional mantra of being prepared and willing to help his Mariners in any way possible, as they look to end the longest postseason drought in the Major Leagues.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Servais embraces Mariners' high expectations

Second-year manager delivers state-of-the-team address on Sunday

Servais embraces Mariners' high expectations

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A busy offseason for a team that just missed the playoffs last year has raised expectations and pressure on a Mariners club that hasn't made the postseason since 2001. But second-year manager Scott Servais said that is a welcome feeling, as his group took the field for its first full-squad workout of the spring on Sunday.

Of the 61 players in camp for the initial workout, 26 were brought in this offseason by general manager Jerry Dipoto. Only nine players who were on the 40-man roster when Dipoto took over 17 months ago are still with the club. But with new players has come an increased belief that the Mariners are poised to take the next step after improving by 10 wins to 86-76 last year.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Felix impressing teammates early in camp

Former Cy Young Award winner is eyeing a bounceback season

Felix impressing teammates early in camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez, who normally starts spring on a slower schedule, looked sharp again during his second bullpen session on Sunday, as the Mariners' ace continues to impress teammates after an offseason full of rigorous training.

"I was joking with him yesterday that he looked like a real man now," Nelson Cruz said. "He's big, and he has muscles. Hopefully that can translate into wins. That's what we are looking for is wins for him. Like anybody else, he just has to stay healthy. "

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dipoto turns back clock with game of catch in bullpen

Dipoto turns back clock with game of catch in bullpen

PEORIA, Ariz. -- No, he's not going to come out of retirement and don a Mariners uniform, general manager Jerry Dipoto insisted. And no, he's not looking to trade himself.

But baseball's most active GM -- having made a Major League-high 38 trades in 17 months since taking over Seattle's front office -- ditched the deals for a day. He donned his glove and played catch in the bullpen at the team's Peoria Sports Complex following Sunday's first full-squad workout.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cano's goal: End Mariners' postseason drought

Second baseman looks to repeat impressive 39-homer 2016 season

Cano's goal: End Mariners' postseason drought

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Coming off one of the best seasons of his impressive 12-year career, Robinson Cano has two things in mind this spring. No. 1, do it all again. And No. 2, this time help get his team into the postseason.

The 34-year-old second baseman arrived at Mariners camp on Saturday, as Seattle's position players reported for physical exams, and pronounced himself fit and ready. But Cano also knows he set a high bar last year with his career-high 39 home runs in his seventh All-Star campaign.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brazilian Vieira impressing Servais in camp

Right-hander credits Bakersfield pitching coach Katz for improvement

Brazilian Vieira impressing Servais in camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When you're a big, strapping right-hander who can top 100 mph on the radar guns, the biggest question is whether you can throw strikes. If Thyago Vieira continues to answer that affirmatively, it might not be long before the 24-year-old from Brazil gets a shot in the Mariners' bullpen.

Vieira was more a project than prospect in the Mariners' system until last year, when he started learning how to harness the power arm and saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio make a dramatic improvement. And after wowing scouts at the Arizona Fall League with some 103-mph clockings, the big youngster finds himself fully on the Mariners' radar as he opens his first big league camp.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Martin likely to be a few days late for camp

Martin likely to be a few days late for camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners position players reported to camp for their physical exams on Saturday, but center fielder Leonys Martin remained at home in Miami with an excused absence. He will likely be a few days late, according to manager Scott Servais.

The other 18 position players checked in and will be on the field together for the first time on Sunday, along with the 43 pitchers and catchers who have been in camp since Tuesday.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Simmons eager to make mark on new team

Mariners reliever says surgery made him stronger mentally

Simmons eager to make mark on new team

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As one of 14 pitchers who are new to the organization this offseason, Shae Simmons wasted little time introducing himself to the Mariners. All it took was the sound of his explosive fastball popping into the catcher's glove during his first bullpen session this week to capture the attention of everyone watching.

The 26-year-old Missouri native could figure prominently into Seattle's bullpen plans after being acquired from the Braves in one of general manager Jerry Dipoto's 13 offseason trades, particularly with fellow right-handers Steve Cishek and Tony Zych slowed this spring by offseason surgeries.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Young pitchers open eyes in early workouts

Mariners hurlers each complete first bullpen session

Young pitchers open eyes in early workouts

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The first week of Spring Training is all about pitching, but things are about to heat up at Mariners camp -- even with rain expected Saturday -- when position players are due to report for their physical exams.

The full squad will be on the field together for the first time Sunday and the initial Cactus League game is Feb. 25.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Smyly ready if needed to pitch for Team USA in Classic

Lefty could be added if country advances in WBC '17

Smyly ready if needed to pitch for Team USA in Classic

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Drew Smyly saw the text message from Team USA general manager Joe Torre last month, asking if he'd be interested in pitching for his country in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, and immediately raised an eyebrow.

"I thought maybe it was one of my friends messing with me," Smyly said Thursday in the Mariners clubhouse after throwing his first bullpen session of the spring. "But I told him right away, I'd be honored to have a chance to pitch for my country.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners hope Rzepczynski spells lefty relief

Southpaw specialist was signed to two-year deal during offseason

Mariners hope Rzepczynski spells lefty relief

PEORIA, Ariz. -- His nickname is "Scrabble," which is easier to say than Marc Rzepczynski's last name. But the Mariners are mostly hoping their new left-hander helps spell relief for a bullpen that lacked a southpaw specialist last season.

Rzepczynski (pronounced zep-CHIN-ski) was general manager Jerry Dipoto's one free-agent splash this winter, agreeing to a two-year, $11 million deal with Seattle. The 31-year-old had a 2.64 ERA in 70 appearances last season with the A's and Nationals.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners starters throw first spring session

Zych and Cishek's time frames slowed by offseason surgeries

Mariners starters throw first spring session

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For what the Mariners want to achieve this season, a lot depends on their starting pitching. And all five projected rotation members were on the mound for the first time this spring on Thursday during the second day of pitchers and catchers' workouts.

Felix Hernandez, the staff ace for the past decade, made his earliest spring mound debut in recent memory, as he works to be ready for the World Baseball Classic in early March, as well as Seattle's season opener in Houston on April 3.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Iwakuma poised for long season

Mariners pitcher focused on staying healthy

Iwakuma poised for long season

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Coming off a career-high 16-win season in which he anchored a Mariners rotation as the most-consistent starter, Hisashi Iwakuma is seeking to build on that success.

When he looks around the clubhouse as his sixth Spring Training in the Major Leagues gets underway, the 35-year-old right-hander likes the direction being taken by general manager Jerry Dipoto to improve the team's speed and defense by adding outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger as well as shortstop Jean Segura over the winter.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Servais seeks to get pitchers on target

New defensive drill taken from football

Servais seeks to get pitchers on target

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners pitchers and catchers took to the field for the first time Wednesday and learned that the target isn't on their backs this year, but on the bases.

Looking to introduce a new element into the traditional -- and often repetitive -- pitchers fielding practice (PFP), manager Scott Servais installed a drill where his hurlers field ground balls back to the mound, then throw into a net with a bull's-eye in the middle at first or second base instead of to a fielder with a glove.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hernandez on serious mission

Hernandez on serious mission

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez has heard the words. He has sensed the whispers. He knows some are wondering if his career is on the downswing as he approaches his 31st birthday and comes off a season in which he had some struggles.

"I have to prove people wrong," Hernandez said Tuesday after reporting to Mariners camp with the rest of Seattle's pitchers and catchers for physical exams. "I feel fine. I feel healthy. That's the main thing."

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cishek, Zych taking their time with recovery

Cishek, Zych taking their time with recovery

PEORIA, Ariz. -- While most of the 35 pitchers in Mariners camp will take the mound soon to begin ramping up for Cactus League games, relievers Steve Cishek and Tony Zych are on a slower track as they return from offseason surgeries.

Zych, 26, had a biceps tendon transfer in his right shoulder after last season and figures he's about two weeks from throwing bullpen sessions, with the hope of being close to start the regular season if everything goes right.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Servais promises fun with 'Whatever It Takes'

Mariners feature better speed, defense and power arms

Servais promises fun with 'Whatever It Takes'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Scott Servais likes to put a theme to his team at the start of Spring Training. And this year the motto he's rolling out for the Mariners is "Whatever It Takes," which is his way of acknowledging this club is ready to take the next step and do everything possible to make that happen.

"The 'Whatever It Takes' thing is kind of, for me, where we're at as an organization. Our time is now," Servais said Tuesday as his pitchers and catchers reported to camp for physical exams before taking the field for the first time on Wednesday.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.