Iannetta's strong spring a welcome sign

Mariners hope veteran brings offensive upgrade behind the plate

Iannetta's strong spring a welcome sign

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Chris Iannetta understands as well as anyone that Spring Training statistics are forgotten as quickly as Opening Day arrives, but the new Mariners catcher does know what it means to feel good at the plate and welcomes the positive results that have been coming along with that as the regular season nears.

The 32-year-old has worked hard with hitting coach Edgar Martinez on some changes in his approach and the results have been positive of late as he's gone 7-for-13 with two doubles and six RBIs over his past five games.

"It's getting better," said Iannetta, a career .231 hitter with a .351 on-base percentage who struggled through a .188/.239/.335 season last year with the Angels. "I made some adjustments early in camp mechanically and in order to get my body to make those adjustments, I had to constantly think about it. And any time you're thinking while you're hitting in the box, it's a bad scenario.

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"Now I'm starting to not worry about where my body is and trust that it's going to be there and start focusing on seeing the ball. So it's getting a little better."

The Mariners don't need Iannetta to be a middle-of-the-order run producer. They just want him to provide his veteran presence and sound defense behind the plate, while adding a tougher at-bat to the bottom of the lineup. Seattle's catchers combined to post just a .159/.205/.259 line last season and Iannetta can clearly upgrade that effort if he produces anything close to his career numbers.

Mariners manager Scott Servais is familiar with Iannetta from his time in Anaheim and says, "Chris is getting his timing down. He's going to have a nice year for us."

A fresh start and the chance to play every day could benefit the 10-year Major League veteran.

Iannetta's two-run single

"He has spent quite a bit of time with Edgar and sometimes a new set of eyes helps, a different approach and thinking on some mechanical stuff," Servais said. "Chris is going to be a big part of our offense. He's that ultimate guy that keeps the line moving, whether it's getting on base by a walk or just having a good at-bat.

"He's veteran enough to not overreact in the clutch moments and just put a good at-bat out there and let the chips fall where they may. There will be some hot streaks and down streaks like there are with a lot of players, but it's nice having him in the lineup."

And Iannetta says being in that lineup on a more consistent basis in recent days as the starters have begun playing more regularly has much to do with his growing comfort.

Iannetta's two-run homer

"I'm feeling good," he said. "The first half of spring is disjointed because guys are on different schedules and everyone is trying to get ready and get prepped. But this next week and once we start the season, everything will start coming together. Where you're playing games like they should be played instead of guys just getting their work in, that's always better."

Iannetta said offensive results in spring games aren't nearly as important as feeling right at the plate, but it's worth noting that last year's offensive struggles with the Angels followed his worst Cactus League performance. He's normally hit very well in spring, posting a career .316 batting average over 11 seasons with the Rockies and Angels. But he hit just .214 last spring with 16 strikeouts and five walks in 42 at-bats, easily the worst spring of his career, and followed that with his least productive regular season.

So for whatever it's worth, seeing that .346 average with six strikeouts and five walks in 26 at-bats this spring is certainly a good sign.

And if the Mariners continue to get an offensive boost from their new backstop, that will be a welcome bonus this season indeed.

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.