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Lauren Smith: Mariners notes: Former Padres infielder Ty France, now with Seattle, says club is 'not far off' from contention

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 3/1/2021 Lauren Smith, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Feb. 28—Ty France spent much of the first six seasons of his professional baseball career with a club on the rise in the San Diego Padres — who are one of the favorites to contend for a World Series title in 2021.

So, the 26-year-old infielder, who the Mariners acquired in a seven-player trade with San Diego last summer, has a good idea of what building a contender looks like.

He can see parallels between what the Padres built and what the Mariners have now spent three seasons working toward.

"We're not far off here," France said Friday during a video call with reporters from the club's spring training complex in Arizona. "Getting to be a part of that rebuild, so you call it, in San Diego, to where they got last year — I like where we're at here.

"We've got a lot of young guys who debuted last year, and are kind of gaining that experience in the big leagues and we brought in a couple of veterans. ... I really don't think we're far off."

France has certainly done his part to contribute to the Mariners' rebuilding efforts since arriving in Seattle in September, matching his productive first half with the Padres with an equally successful second half.

France's numbers in the first half of the shortened 2020 season with San Diego: He hit .309/.377/.491 with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBI in 20 games.

In the second half with Seattle: He hit .302/.362/.453 with five doubles, a triple, two homers, and 13 RBI in 23 games.

"Like we've talked about with Ty all along, the bat is the carrying tool — and it's a really good bat," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "What we've seen so far (in spring training) is kind of an extension of what we saw last year.

"This guy can hit. He knows he can hit. He has good at-bats. He has a plan when he goes up there."

Servais noted France's ability to keep the barrel of his bat on plane in the strike zone for long stretches and his swing decisions as qualities that set France apart at the plate.

"He's kind of got the whole package, and it's fun to watch," Servais said. "Again, relatively young player, and being able to do those things really stands out."

France is expected to primarily slot in as Seattle's designated hitter, but will also get reps at first base, second and third this spring.

France said he is most comfortable at third, but has experience around the infield. He's played 42 big league games at third, 31 at second and six at first.

"He'll move around," Servais said. "He's certainly going to work out at third base some, but we know (Kyle Seager) is going to play third base. He'll get reps at second base, stand at first base, which he has played some in the past.

"But, when you hit you play. Ty France hits. He's got a really good idea of what he's doing at the plate. We love how he goes about an at-bat, and he's going to play regularly. We're going to have to move him around and be creative in how do we do that."

CACTUS LEAGUE OPENER

The Mariners opened their Cactus League schedule Sunday afternoon in Peoria against the Padres, and will play 28 total Cactus League games before returning to Seattle for their season-opener against the Giants on April 1.

Marco Gonzales, who is set to make his third consecutive Opening Day start for Seattle, tossed 1 2/3 innings in the spring training opener, allowing one run (no earned runs) on two hits while walking one.

Seattle's starting lineup against San Diego could be the lineup the club rolls out when it opens the season against San Francisco. Here's who started Sunday:

— SS J.P. Crawford

— RF Mitch Haniger

— CF Kyle Lewis

— 3B Kyle Seager

— DH Ty France

— 2B Dylan Moore

— 1B Evan White

— C Tom Murphy

— LF Jake Fraley

PITCHING PROBABLES

The Mariners have Monday off — the first of two off days between Sunday's opener and their spring training finale on March 29 — before playing 26 games in the next 26 days.

Here are the probable starters for their next three:

— Tuesday (vs. Indians): LHP Yusei Kikuchi vs. RHP Adam Plutko

— Wednesday (at Cubs): LHP James Paxton vs. TBD

— Thursday (vs. Rockies): LHP Justus Sheffield vs. RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez

Relievers expected to pitch for the Mariners on Tuesday include Gerson Bautista, Joey Gerber, Taylor Guerrieri, Yohan Ramirez, Jaime Schultz, Erik Swanson and Domingo Tapia.

Relievers expected to pitch Wednesday include Ljay Newsome, J.T. Chargois, Nick Duron, Aaron Fletcher, Vinny Nittoli and Jimmy Yacabonis.

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