When the Seattle Mariners shut down their spring training facility in Arizona this spring, shortstop J.P. Crawford set up his own camp somewhere else — his living room.
“Yeah,” he said. “Got a whole net and tee. Bucket of balls.”
Everything he needed for a makeshift batting practice. Perhaps not the usual setup in a new house — Crawford moved from Southern Calfornia, where he grew up, to just down the road from the Mariners’ Peoria facility during the offseason — but it proved an effective enough solution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said.
Crawford, entering his second season with Seattle’s organization, said he tried to take the three-month baseball hiatus day-by-day, finding ways to work out wherever and however he could to stay prepared, and sometimes that meant converting his household spaces into training areas.
“I was just happy I have a house now,” Crawford said. “That way I could just post up and stay there, and finally settle down.
“My fiancé actually helped me out a lot. We were practicing in the backyard. She would hit me grounders and roll me ground balls. I bought a net, put that in my living room and got a tee and just hit on the tee all day, and got a gym set up in the garage, so I squared up that way.
“I didn’t really lose a beat.”
Crawford showed up to spring training in February confident after playing a career-high 93 games in the majors last year, and committing to his offseason preparation. He added weight over the winter, polished his defense and his bat had more pop by the time Seattle opened Cactus League play.
He was hitting .400/.429/.560 with two triples, five RBI, two stolen bases, two walks and four strikeouts in 28 plate appearances before spring training was suspended.
“It’s exactly what you’d hope for when a young player comes into a new organization,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Crawford’s growth since he came to Seattle’s organization in a trade with the Phillies following the 2018 season.
“It takes a while to get comfortable and build trust with guys, and we’ve certainly seen that with J.P. He believes in what we’re doing here. He’s a big part of our future going forward. He took his offseason very seriously. He’s bigger, stronger now. I think the confidence that he’s carrying in our clubhouse … it’s been great to see.”
Crawford said he continued to refine his swing during the shutdown, and feels even more in control at the plate than he did during a productive spring training. He’s maintained the power and pop he had in the spring, but said his swing feels more fluid and natural now.
“I watched video from when I was at the Futures Game and back in Low-A, and I didn’t have a leg kick back then, and I think I got away from that, and it kind of messed up my timing a little bit,” he said.
“Now I’ve got a nice, slow rhythm going again, and the ball is coming off differently off my bat, so I’m really excited to see what happens this year.”
Crawford also continues to take on a more prominent leadership role in the infield, even with veterans like third baseman Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon, who is now in a utility role, surrounding him.
“Last year, a new team, new organization, I was just trying to come in here and show them what I could do,” Crawford said. “This year, now that they know what I can do, it’s time to take over. I’ve always been that guy to kind of take leadership (roles), so I want to do that here.”
It’s a big year for Crawford, Servais said.
“He knows it, and I love the fact that he’s taking on more of a leadership role because he can do it,” Servais said. “It’s in there. Certainly you want your guys in the middle of the field — your catchers, your middle infielders, your center fielder — they need to lead. He’s aware of that, and I’m excited to see it.”
Lewis homers in live BP
Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis ripped a line drive home run to right center during a live batting practice session against Nestor Cortes Jr. on Monday morning, showcasing again the power Seattle saw during spring training and when he was called up last September.
Servais said Sunday that Lewis, Seattle’s first-round draft pick in 2016, has stood out to him early on in summer camp.
“I think the ceiling is super, super high,” Servais said. “We saw the impact he can have, the power he has when he’s squaring balls up. … I don’t like putting numbers or too high expectations on anybody, but he can really go take this thing as far as he wants. He’s got that kind of ability.”
Cortes was one of three pitchers who tossed live BP during Monday morning’s session. He threw 20 pitches, struck Lewis out the second time around and also retired outfielder Jake Fraley twice.
Mariners ace Marco Gonzales threw 25 pitches to Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager, allowing a hit to Gordon and striking out Seager once.
Camas High School product Taylor Williams threw 24 pitches to live batters, striking out three, including designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach twice. Outfielder Braden Bishop also smoked a base hit back at the net behind Williams in one of his at-bats.
In the afternoon session, Nick Margevicius threw live BP to Shed Long Jr. and Crawford, and Yohan Ramirez threw to Patrick Wisdom and Donovan Walton.
The Mariners released their 60-game schedule late Monday afternoon, which begins July 24 in Houston. They host the A’s in their home opener at T-Mobile Park on July 31. ... Seattle’s morning and afternoon workouts proceeded as scheduled Monday as other MLB teams canceled or postponed practices due to delayed COVID-19 testing. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said through the club’s public relations staff Monday that Seattle has not had the same issues with delays. The Mariners completed all intake testing on July 1, while other teams opened testing later or staggered testing, which has led to less timely results. The report on the Mariners’ initial intake results will be released Wednesday. … Servais said there will be no limitations on starters Kendall Graveman and Taijuan Walker, who are both entering their first full seasons after Tommy John surgery, during summer camp. Reliever Austin Adams, now healthy from ACL surgery, is also a full go. … Catcher Tom Murphy did not participate in team workouts Monday after fouling a pitch off his foot during Sunday’s practice. He has a contusion on his foot, Servais said, but should resume normal activity this week.