Servais 'can't wait' for managerial debut

Servais 'can't wait' for managerial debut

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Scott Servais has been through numerous Opening Days during his 11-year Major League career as a catcher and the last 10 years as a director of player development with the Rangers and Angels. But this Monday, he'll step on the field for the first time as a manager when the Mariners line up for Opening Day introductions at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

"That'll be pretty different," Servais acknowledged. "I'll be standing on home plate, or right next to it, instead of warming up the guy in the bullpen or something like that. I'm really looking forward to it."

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The 48-year-old Wisconsin native knows the butterflies will be churning, though he says it's not quite like the first time getting called up to the Majors as a player.

"I've spent a lot of time in the big leagues and a lot of time in Texas, but I'm really, really looking forward to leading our club," he said. "I can't wait to get that going."

Servais thinks he and his coaching staff have made excellent strides this spring in laying the groundwork for some significant changes both in the clubhouse environment and the approach on the field.

"We've talked a lot about how we want to play -- controlling the strike zone, aggressive on the bases, the defensive shifting. We've put all that stuff into play," he said. "We've talked a pretty good game, but I think we've backed it up. We've played that way. We've focused on it. I feel we've accomplished a ton. As far as the relationship building and gaining trust with our players, I think we've come a long, long way. Probably quicker than I thought we could."

Felix, Hamels duke it out

Servais said the Cactus League season has gone smoothly, though he knows he'll be tested as a new manager once the regular season begins, particularly with in-game decisions.

"The rhythm of the game hasn't been an issue. And that's just from my experience as a catcher," he said. "You kind of know the pace, whether it's getting signs or getting a feel for players or how they're reacting throughout the course of an at-bat or their leads at first base and who feels comfortable running and stuff like that. Those are all things that come back very quickly from all the years I played.

"But what is going to be the biggest challenge, or still yet to come, is the bullpen, no doubt. I've said from day one I think that's the biggest challenge for any young manager, anticipating lineups, where they're coming, who do we want to face their left-handed hitters in the seventh or eighth and kind of planning that stuff out.

"You really don't get that feel in Spring Training, so that will be the next hurdle or notch to put in my belt, I guess, to start to get a better feel for that."

And, yes, he's already started to play out some of the possibilities in his mind for the first game when Felix Hernandez takes the mound against Rangers lefty Cole Hamels.

"You can anticipate. We've started looking at scouting reports at what Texas is going to bring out there, and then playing Oakland and stuff like that," Servais said. "But every game is different. I would love for Felix to go out and give us eight innings and we have a three-run lead and we hand it to [Steve] Cishek. That would be awesome. But you never know. You have to take every game as it comes."

Greg Johns is a reporter for 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.