ST. PETERSBURG — Roughly one hour before first pitch on Tuesday, Scott Servais emerged from the visiting dugout at Tropicana Field and stepped back into his role as Mariners manager. Servais, who flew out of Seattle bright and early, was sidelined since last Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19.
First-base coach Kristopher Negrón had served as acting manager in Servais’ stead, and hitting coach Tony Arnerich filled in for third-base coach Manny Acta, who is still sidelined after testing positive. The Mariners won four of their five games with the skipper out.
“Really, credit to our players,” Servais said after Seattle’s 8-4 win over the Rays on Tuesday. “Our players show up, they’re ready to compete every night and we have very good structure around what we do. So letting those guys take it and run with it actually makes me feel good to know what we have in place. And if you have to step out for a few days, guys can step right up and fill your shoes.”
Watching from the sidelines wasn’t easy. But it allowed for the seventh-year manager to observe the game through an alternate lens. Sunday’s thrilling 12-inning win over the Royals particularly stood out.
“It’s funny, watching the games, those extra-innings games, there’s so much going on and your mind is constantly thinking ahead,” Servais said. “‘Well, I hope you’re thinking about this’ or ‘How about that?’ My wife asked me if I’m more nervous sitting at home or at the ballpark.
“I think the energy in the ballpark, it kind of raises all the anxiety in you. When you’re sitting at home, you’re pulling for the guys and pulling for the team. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy sitting at home, but thank God we’re playing the way we are. It makes it a little bit easier when you’re winning.”
Communication-wise, the Mariners worked to keep everything as similar as possible while Servais was out. He still called into daily meetings via Zoom and maintained close contact with Negrón and the rest of the coaches.
“I’ve had a lot of communication with the staff, as we always do,” Servais said. “Things didn’t really change there as far as the daily routine and how we go about looking at lineups and how the game is going to play out and whatnot. I thought Kris did a fantastic job.”
Beyond Servais, the Mariners’ COVID outbreak from earlier this month appears to be subsiding.
Catcher Luis Torrens was activated on Monday. Right fielder Mitch Haniger and closer Paul Sewald have both cleared protocols and could join the active roster in the coming days. Sewald threw a bullpen session at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, and Haniger completed a full pregame workout, including on-field batting practice.
But the Mariners will continue to monitor those two closely and ensure they’re as close to 100% game-ready before returning.