There was a day when how you performed in spring training determined whether or not you made the team. That is not true anymore.
Consider Trayvon Robinson. He was 9-17 (.529) with a home run and was sent to the minor league camp. Manager Eric Wedge said-in a vague, convoluted way-that Robinson still had some things to work on. Wedge did not say what those ‘things’ were, so it is anyone’s guess.
Though Robinson can play centerfield, with Gutierrez out, the M’s are leaning towards Michael Saunders, a great spring player, but a regular season bust, and Casper Wells, who is barely hitting above .200, but has a bit more experience.
So much for having a good camp.
But what will the M’s do with Hisashi Iwakuma who has not pitched well this camp. The rotation has King Felix at number one and Justin Vargas as number two. Iwakuma was slotted for the three spot, but Blake Beavans has pitched well enough to take one of the five spots.
So too has Hector Noesi and the Mariners are impressed with 21-year old Erasmo Ramirez. And there is still Kevin Millwood lurking around. All three have fared better than Iwakuma, who reportedly has been throwing in the mid 80’s.
Ramirez and Millwood are non-roster invitees, so a roster move would have to be made for one of them to make the squad.
This could be another situation where how you perform does not determine whether you make the team, only the reverse of Robinson. The Mariners have more invested in Iwakuma than the other three. Like Ichiro, he is important for marketing to the Japanese community in Seattle.
And marketing is a factor. Afterall, consider all the uniform combinations, the turn back the clock nights, the batting practice caps and jerseys. And the shoes! Sometimes I think Baseball players are models for apparel companies.
This will be an important week, the last chance to make the roster before heading to Japan and the season opener against Oakland. Whether you can help the team win may not matter, but making the front office look good for their investment may get you on the team. Iwakuma will get every chance. Certainly more than Robinson.