SEATTLE — When the Mariners disembarked from Spring Training two weeks ago, general manager Jerry Dipoto and the front office were cognizant that keeping players in shape during a lengthy holding pattern would demand creativity and specialization.
The most imaginative — and effective — idea so far, in Dipoto’s estimation? A weighted sock designed for pitchers without access to a mound.
The concoction is created by inserting a heavy object into the sock, duct taping it inside, then duct taping the entire sock to the throwing hand and arm, and finally, finishing with throwing-like motions. Doing so, Dipoto said, helps maintain laxity in the joints, prevents adhesions and keeps the arm active without ramping up to a designated pitch count.
"It’s certainly not going to enable you to stay ready to throw 120 [feet] next Tuesday, but we're doing the best we can," Dipoto said in an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle.
Uncertain times call for innovative measures, and Dipoto has never been known to be idle.
The weighted sock is part of a broader practice by Seattle's front office to tailor maintenance regimens to every player based on their access to exercise — all, of course, with player safety and health at the forefront. Whether a player has a home gym, or has “nothing but a six-by-six-foot space with no equipment,” Dipoto said, Seattle’s biomechanists and coaches have a plan suited to everyone’s circumstances.
“That's been a challenge, but it's also been a lot of fun to see how creative our people are along the way,” Dipoto said.
Mariners pitcher @DanAlt3225 is here to help you improve your stability, body control and hand-eye coordination from the comfort of your own home.#FindAWayToPlay#OnBase#WeGotThisSeattle pic.twitter.com/YX2UX8qCjy
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 24, 2020
The Mariners are also keeping players' mental health in mind in the wake of ever-increasing social-distancing measures being practiced across the country. Beyond the daily texts from trainers and the medical staff and a weekly phone chat with their designated coach via a call list, new Major League field coordinator Carson Vitale has started a virtual book club that has begun assembling weekly to keep players engaged in their life away from baseball.
“Seeing the faces, hearing new ideas, we really don't know the answer to a lot of questions," Dipoto said. "We're just trying to prepare as best we can for the inevitable, which is that we will play baseball again. We just don't know quite when that will be. … We're focused on keeping our players healthy and we'll worry about baseball when it's time to worry about baseball.”
The postponement of the regular season comes on the heels of a Spring Training that was brimming with optimism for the Mariners, with the team excited about taking a step forward after their step back in 2019. Even though Dipoto acknowledged in January that the postseason in '20 was likely out of reach, the Mariners were eager to roll out a wave of players who are an important part of the team's long-term future.
While their development is on hold, Mariners players — like everyone — are making the best with what they have. Dipoto has preached the importance of accountability and taking initiative, with the hope that it will lead to a sense of productivity despite the limitations of the situation everyone is in.
“The advice that we gave our players when we were leaving Peoria was, first and foremost, focus on your health,” Dipoto said. “While you're doing that, please remember that the person to your left and the person to your right are pretty important in this. It gave them, I think, a new appreciation for teammates. Hopefully it gives them some connection to their community, and I've been proud so far of the way our players have handled reaching back out and checking, messaging the community in various ways. That's also been exciting.”