Iannetta excited to flip sides in AL West

Veteran catcher admired Mariners from across division, reunites with Servais

Iannetta excited to flip sides in AL West

SEATTLE -- Having played the past four seasons with the American League West-rival Angels, Chris Iannetta is plenty familiar with the Mariners. And as he toured Safeco Field and took part in the weekend's FanFest, the veteran catcher wasted no time acclimating himself to his new home.

"It's going to be exciting," the 32-year-old said durig a break from his autograph and fan-interview sessions. "They had a really good core group of guys last year with really high expectations. The pitching staff got a lot better. It was already good to begin with, but they added some guys that are going to give us a lot of innings. It's going to be really good."

Iannetta was the first free agent signed this offseason by new general manager Jerry Dipoto, who reached back to his Angels roots to pluck a catcher who'll handle the starting duties on a club that struggled to fill the backstop role in 2015.

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Iannetta has a relationship already with manager Scott Servais as well, since Servais was an assistant general manager with the Angels. And the two have been in frequent contact already, with Servais -- himself a former catcher -- counting on Iannetta to provide a lot of the leadership with the catching crew as well as the team's pitching staff.

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Servais and Dipoto will implement a lot of new advanced scouting ideas, and Iannetta figures at the forefront of that information flow as the man who'll be calling pitches.

"It's been an open dialogue," Iannetta said. "We've talked a lot about how we're going to run some of the scouting stuff. What I need. How I like to prepare. Some ideas they had about how to process information and how we can put that down on paper where it's easy to understand and access and digest.

"It's really about what we can do from a scouting standpoint to get the most out of the guys on the team and give us a little competitive advantage."

Iannetta can help with more than just information flow, of course. Seattle's catchers hit a combined .159 last season, the worst mark in the Majors. Iannetta is a career .231 hitter in 10 seasons, with a healthy .351 on-base percentage. But he put up just a .188/.293/.335 line last year in 92 games and feels he has much to prove this year, both to himself and his new club.

"It was just bad," he said. "I can't make any excuse for it. The only thing I can kind of put a finger on is I tried to do a little too much. Going into two years ago, I made a conscious effort to be a little more aggressive and it really paid off. I had a really good year. And I tried to make a little more incremental progress by being even more aggressive and it was too much.

"I got away from being myself, which is being patient at the plate, getting a good pitch to hit. I found myself in a lot of 1-2 and 0-2 counts because I was swinging at marginal pitches that I don't normally swing at. And it took me awhile to get out of that. It took me awhile to get back to being the player that I am, seeing a lot of pitches and getting on base.

"Once I did that for the middle part of the year, I did really well. I prided myself in getting out of it and doing well for the majority of the season. I hit a little hiccup in the end of July and August, which is normal. If you play a whole season, it's going to happen. But you add that to the beginning of the year and you hit .188. The numbers were terrible. I was embarrassed a majority of the time. But I just kind of hang my hat on the four months that I did well."

In that regard, he understands the Mariners struggles last year. Baseball can be a tough game and not everything always works to plan, but it's often possible to turn things the other direction with minor adjustments.

"They were one or two pieces away from being really good last year," Iannetta said. "And even though the expectations were really high, it just happens. That's why you play 162 and it's tough. The difference between the best team and worst team is so small. One or two things here or there can change the course of a season. I think we're right on the cusp of doing some great things here."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.