PEORIA, Ariz. – Unfortunately for Mariners fans who were offered a tantalizing two-inning glimpse of Logan Gilbert in his start against the Angels on March 7, which featured strikeouts of Mike Trout, David Fletcher, Dexter Fowler and Taylor Ward, there won’t be any more chances to see him in Cactus League games this spring.
Asked if Gilbert would pitch in a Cactus League game again, Mariners manager Scott Servais replied:
“Probably not, like we talked about early in camp, we want to make sure that Logan is gearing up for his season, which will start at the minor league levels,” he said. “We want to be very cognizant and really in-tune to the fact that we want him to have gas in the tank throughout the entire season. The fact that he didn’t pitch last year we have to be pretty cautious. I just think it’s so important how finishes the season versus on how he starts the season. So you probably won’t see him in another Cactus League game.”
With no 2020 minor league season and only intrasquad games to try and build innings, Gilbert was ticketed to start the 2021 season in the minor leagues before spring training began. But when Major League Baseball decided to delay the start of the Triple-A season by one month, it forced teams to make some changes to their plans.
The Mariners must decide whether to send Gilbert to the alternate training site in Tacoma and pitch in more intrasquad games or keep him at the facility in Arizona and throw in minor league spring training games.
It’s likely he will remain in Arizona for the extra month pitching in games. The Mariners will probably keep whoever loses the battle for the sixth spot in the rotation between Justin Dunn, Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome at the alternate training site as emergency starters.
Gilbert, who turns 24 on May 5, is rated as the No. 35 prospect in all of Major League Baseball. He’s still technically in MLB camp, but he’ll likely be optioned to minor league camp in the next few days.
“Every team is in the same situation we’re in, where they’ve got young prospects that are in major league camp,” Servais said. “And once major league camp is winding down, now the rest of the minor league group is coming into camp, knowing that’s going to take those guys probably two weeks to get up at a game ready. What can we do as an industry to help those young prospects, certainly those around the Cactus League, to keep those guys in game mode.”
Servais said they are hoping to play some games of some sort against other teams in the west valley – the Padres, Royals, Dodgers, Rangers and White Sox.
Sources said general manager Jerry Dipoto came up with the idea of a co-op league similar to what Servais described to keep players in game mode, but that it was unlikely to happen because of difficulties with the MLB Players’ Association and having players on the 40-man roster competing in those games.
The Mariners also had three of the other top pitching prospects in big league camp – former first-round picks Emerson Hancock and George Kirby and lefty Brandon Williamson, who was a second-round pick in 2019.
All three arrived later to MLB camp with the Mariners having open spots on the 75-player list. They did not pitch in games. Servais saw each of them throw bullpen sessions.
“I didn’t see a lot from them, I gotta be honest with you,” Servais said. “I did see all those guys in a bullpen setting, but again they’re just getting their arms in shape, getting ready to get their season underway and headed toward minor league spring training. I think it was a good opportunity for them exposure-wise get around our players in this environment.
“They were at summer camp last year, so they have a little idea on how major league camps are run and whatnot. The more experience those kids can get, the better off they’ll be for it down the road. In this setting, it’s more of you’re sharing the same weight room, you’re eating with guys, you’re getting a chance to just spend more time with the veteran players, which is always valuable.”