There are two pitchers trying to make the Mariners pitching staff and neither is likely to make it, though one will end up in Tacoma. Another pitcher is a spring invitee, not on the 40-man roster, and if he shows anything at all he could be in Tacoma as well.
As to the first pitcher, look for a healthy Danny Hultzen. Remember him, the Mariners number one pick a few years ago. He was 9-7 in his first season in the minor leagues in 2012 and in 2013 was 5-1 in seven starts before going down with an arm injury and has not pitched since then. He could even end up in a lower classification, but no matter where he lands he is starting his journey back to the majors. In 32 minor league starts he is 14-8 with a 2.82 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 159.2 innings, allowing 109 hits.
How his injury will affect him is anyone’s guess, but it is always good to have extra arms as pitchers have more injuries in todays game than ever before. Which brings us to another pitcher, the one not on the 40-man roster, though in 2013 lefty Joe Saunders was part of the Mariner rotation, but at 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA he was not a fan favorite. The 33-year old is 89-86 with a 4.37 career ERA. His winning record is misleading. In 2008-2009 he was 33-14 for the Angels. He is not that pitcher anymore. He is trying to make a comeback after starting 8 games for Texas in 2014 going 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA and then pitching 3.1 relief innings for the Orioles giving up five runs. In addition he made four minor league stops, three in AAA and one in AA and did not fare well there either.
Saunders is good against lefties with a career .243 batting average against, so maybe he will be fighting for a lefty relief spot. If he does end up in Tacoma, he is-as they say-insurance.
But for me Joe reminds me of the past when he and Aaron Harang were giving up runs like cheap nylons. I like the new Mariners thank you, not the beleaguered ones.
The Seattle Mariners have a bad habit of signing free agent pitchers whose tread has worn out. Kevin Millwood in 2012, Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman in 2013. And no I have not forgotten Joe Saunders who was 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA and a . 311 batting average against. In his three previous years he was 30-43, all losing season, so the Mariners got what they deserved, a losing pitcher. There is a mutual option for Saunders in 2014, so his return is not guaranteed.
If they want another veteran warhorse there is Bronson Arroyo, 36, who at least had a winning record at 14-12, 3.79. He would fit better than another 36-year old, A.J. Burnett, a decent pitcher, 10-11, 3.30 ERA. Since the Mariners will not get to the post season, they will not have to worry about his 2-3, 6.87 post season record. Tim Hudson is 38. (Where does the time go?) Injuries have limited him to 28 starts in 2012 and 21 last season.
One war house, is 40 year old Bartolo Colon who was 18-6, 2.65 with Oakland. Does he have another year left? He might, but it is doubtful he is on the Mariners sonar.
Going younger, Ervin Santana is 30, has three straight losing seasons, but his ERA was solid in two of those years. Another excellent starter is Ubaldo Jimenez, 13-9, 3.30 with Cleveland. He is 29 like Matt Garza, another free agent, who was 10-6 between the Cubs and Rangers. Any of these three would be better than the aging warhorses Seattle has signed in the past. They would also be better than Dan Haren, 33, who has two straight losing seasons with plus 4 ERAS.
The Mariners have a propensity for bringing in players with a Northwest flavor, so would they pursue Tim Lincecum despite three consecutive losing seasons. He is only 29, so if they do chase Tim, look for the ‘change of scenery’ cliché. He is younger than most of the above mentioned. And the change of scenery might be beneficial.
I would find no reason to complain about Arroyo, Santana, Garza, Jimenez, or Lincecum.
But if the past indicates anything the Mariners would end up with Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, or Burnett. Then there is something to complain about.
The Mariners have two starters, Felix and Iwakuma. They need a third starter, then let James Paxton, Taijuan Wallker, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, and Blake Beavan compete for the final two spots. Let the search for number three begin.
Trader Jack Zduriencik, Mariners GM, has repeatedly asked for patience from Mariner fans, saying the minor league system had to be built before replenishing the big club. For many in the Great Northwest it has taken too long, and many are not sure if it is working. But a look at how the roster has changed indicates the plan is coming to an end.
The migration started in June 2011 when Dustin Ackley was brought up from Tacoma and made his major league debut. His college teammate, Kyle Seager, migrated north the next month. Seager continued to improve in 2012 while Ackley took a step back.
But in 2013 the migration was not two lone birds, but a flock. April 16, pitcher Yoervis Medina; May 27, second baseman Nick Franklin; June 12, catcher Mike Zunino; June 28, shortstop Brad Miller; and August 30, pitcher Taijuan Walker, and outfielder Abraham Almonte.
For better or for worse, the future of the Mariners is taking shape for next season, and perhaps, if luck shines on the Good Ship Mariner, for many years. During this season the Mariners have shed veterans Jeremy Bonderman, Aaron Harang, Kelly Shopach, and Mike Morse, all of whom were brought in this season. Considering how they played, they pretty much took up space.
Next year Danny Hultzen should migrate north and be part of the rotation, it is hoped, with King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and Erasmo Ramirez.
What Seattle does not need is the veteran, washed up pitcher, Trader Jack has brought to Seattle the last two years. Kevin Millwood and Aaron Harang were a combined 11-23. Seattle does not need that type of veteran. Nor does Seattle need the likes of Milton Bradley, Jack Cust, Chone Figgins, Ryan Langerhans, Russell Branyan, Casey Kotchman, Miguel Olivo, and others who, like the seagulls, waited for the game to end so they could have their post game spread.
For better or worse I would rather watch the migration of youth
Taijuan Walkers will make his major league debut Friday night in Houston. He is only 21, but the Mariners need a reason for fans to tune in to the game against Houston following the disastrous six game home stand that saw Seattle go 0-6 and be outscored 38-12.
Since the Mariners had that streak of winning-yes they had one, honest-when they climbed within four games of .500, they have gone 11-21. Maybe they were getting dizzy with success. Seattle has always been consistently good at losing, not winning.
The Mariners look awful in August and heading the list, sorry to say, is King Felix. He is 1-4 in August with a unlike-Felix earned run average of 5.82. I have no answer, no ideas. If there is an answer, Carl Willis, Mariner pitching coach, would know. If he figures it out, I hope it is soon. Felix could be tipping pitches, his pattern may have become predictable, it may be a release point, it may be a curse. Who knows?
And Hiroshi Iwakuma is struggling a bit at 2-2, 3.97. The best starter is Hector Ramirez at 2-1, 4.03.
Is Taijuan Walker the answer? Not this year. The Mariners are unlikely to stretch him out. His innings will be watched as the Mariners do not want him going to many over 165. Between Jackson and Tacoma he is at 141. So Walker may get three starts, or four, depending on how they want to use him. He strikes out one per inning in his career, and at his age, with ace potential, he will be babied.
I am looking forward to September. College and pro football will be a welcome distraction for my sanity, rapidly deteriorating due to Marineritis of the brain.
It happened at Wrigley Field, Chicago. The date August 25th, 1922. The Philadelphia Phillies were in town and the Cubs were not hospitable, at least early in the game. The Cubs had a 10 run second inning and a 14 run fourth inning, and led 25-6 heading into the fifth. Phillies pitcher Jimmy Ring gave up 16 of those runs, only six of which were earned. It was that kind of game.
Phillip Weinert was the only other pitcher the Phillies used. He gave up the other 10 runs, 8 of which were earned.
But the game is never over, even with a 19 run lead. The Phillies came back. Down 26-9 after seven innings, they scored eight in the eighth to make it 26-17.
Then came the ninth. The Phillies scored six to make it 26-23 and had the bases loaded, the tying run at second, two out, but LeBourveau struck out to end the game, giving what was left of 7,000 Cubs fans a big sigh of reflief. Blowing a 25-6 lead would be hard to swallow, but it came close to happening.
The game took three hours and one minute to play. They played faster in 1922. Today that type of game would take well over four hours, and if it were between the Yankees and Red Sox, we are talking six hours.
Here is a link to the box score if you want more numbers http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1922/B08250CHN1922.htm
I bring up this game because the Seattle Mariners have lost four straight at home and looked awful in the process. In the three game sweep by the Angels, the M’s had three extra base hits, all by Dustin Ackley. There is only so much one can say, and none of it good. Except that Aaron Harang was designated for assignment, a long overdue, and much desired move.
At least the Mariners did not come close to blowing a 19 run lead.
If you enjoy baseball fiction based on a true story, one that is offbeat, a satire on celebrity and fame, here is a link to my e-Book at amazon.
The first thing Ranger hitters do when Seattle comes to town is see if Felix Hernandez is pitching and if he is, then, unlike hitters on every other team, the Rangers lick their lips like the big bad wolf chasing the three little pigs.
Felix does not pitch well in Arlington. The most losses he has in a visiting ball park is five, except Arlington, where Felix, in 18 starts, has 9 losses and only 5 wins. That explains why Felix, who was on quite a roll of late, winning 7, losing 1, in 14 starts, struggled like a man in a straight jacket. Five, hits, five walks, five runs, in-yes five innings. This is not the King, this is Aaron Harang on a good day.
Felix has not won in Arlington since September of 2010 and his ERA in the house of horrors is 4.45. Just as a pitcher can dominate one team over time, he can also be dominated by a team. Arlington is his jinx park. He probably hates taking the mound there the way some people hate going to the dentist, a dentist that has no Novocain and uses pliers to extract teeth.
Felix is not the type to shy away from trouble, he is a competitor. He probably wants to get back there and go at the Rangers again. He will get a crack at them in Seattle when they come to town the 26th through the 28th, but Arlington, thank God, will wait until 2014.
Next season Felix needs to sleep in his Arlington hotel bed with a horseshoe under his pillow; carry four leaf clover in his back pocket when pitching; rub a rabbits foot in the dugout when the M’s are batting; or maybe just get Texas flu.
In the meantime, Felix, especially with a thunderous backing from his court at the Safe, must dominate the Rangers when they come to town next week. Give the Rangers some bad karma for the offseason.
Despite the Mariners beating Toronto 9-7 Wednesday, what the Mariners need to fix in 2014 was apparent in the first two innings. It is not Aaron Harang and the seven runs he gave up in his two innings of work, but what he represents, that being what Jack Zduriencik has done the last two seasons.
Jack has looked for that veteran pitcher to be a fifth starter. It has been a move of desperation, indicating that young arms in the minors are not ready, and that Jack was unable or unwilling to make a trade for a better option.
In 2012 it was Kevin Millwood, 37 years old, in his last season in the majors. His 4.25 earned run average was not bad, but his 6-12 record was, as well as the fact he averaged slightly less than six innings a start. This season the sacrificial fifth starter is another ancient Mariner, though two years younger than Millwood, at 35. Harang is averaging 5.4 innings per start, allowing two homeruns per nine innings. His record is 5-10 with a 5.79 ERA.
Unless, the Red Sox, Yankees, or Blue Jays are in town; or there is a bobblehead giveaway; or you are season ticket holder, why would anyone go when Millwood or Harang were pitching. Maybe if you are a masochist.
The Mariners must get away from the Millwoods, Harangs, Bondermans, etal. Pitchers on the downside of a long career, or coming off devastating injuries.
At the moment Seattle should have King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma as solid starters, both of them All-Stars. Joe Saunders will have a spot with another year on his contract. Erasmo Ramirez is pitching well at the moment, so he will be in the mix. So too should Danny Hultzen and perhaps Taijuan Walker. Maybe even Brandon Maurer.
I hope Trader Jack has learned his lesson and will stay away from broken down war horses in 2014. They are not working out.