May the 8th is the date Seattle opens a weekend home stand with Kansas City. It is important because Seattle will have played their 34th game in Oakland the previous day. In those 34 games, 23 will be played on the road and only 11 at home.
Seattle must play well away from home in order to get off to a good start. The Mariners first home stand saw them split two with the Angels and lose two of three to the A’s. A 2-3 home stand won’t help the Mariners if they falter in road games. They must win or at the least play .500 in foreign ports of call.
They open a four game series in Texas tonight, then three in Miami. After coming home for Houston and Texas, the Mariners go to New York for the Yankees, then to Houston and Oakland before the May 8th game.
What makes the trip difficult is that James Paxton is on the DL, Erasmo Ramirez has had two straight bad starts, Roenis Elias is still an unknown factor, and Chris Young, who pitched six shutout innings against Oakland Sunday in his first start, is attempting a comeback after missing last season. That is a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘hopes.’
Another big question during this period is whether Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker can return to the rotation. And if they are ready, how well can they pitch. The Mariners brought up Blake Beavan, who pitched well in Tacoma, to start Tuesday in Texas. But he had a poor spring camp and poor 2013 season, yet another ‘hope.’
It is possible the bullpen will be tested with so many questions in the rotation, so there may be a shuttle of bullpen pitchers between Tacoma and Seattle to keep the bullpen fresh.
This is why May 8th is important. They must stay close to .500 by sailing rough waters, because if they don’t, as May ends and June begins, the empty seats at Safeco may be plentiful.
All major league teams can expand their rosters in September. And after September 2nd, when Tacoma closes out their season, the Mariners will call up a few prospects. Who will be called up the Mariners have not said. But one thing is certain, there are players on the 25 man active roster who will be fighting for playing time-and jobs. The young prospects will want to impress, and if someone does, they will get their chance.
Pitchers will, I am sure, be among those heading to Seattle. Logan Bowcam saved 19 games for Tacoma with a sub 3 ERA. He is a 25 year old right hander and everyone can use pitching, especially in the bullpen.
Seattle could also bring up those who have been on the I-5 shuttle like Tom Wilhelmsen, Bobby LaFromboise, Hector Noesi, or Blake Beavan. A bigger question would be Taijuan Walker, 21, who was 4-3 in 10 starts. He struck out 55, walked 25, with a 3.86 ERA in 51 innings. Do they want to begin his major league clock with a September call-up? There really is no point.
Babe Ruth can not be called up. He is dead. But Seattle should look into cloning rights should they become available.
One name to remember for the future because you will not see him come September is Tyler Pike, a 19 year old left handed pitcher. He is 7-4, 2.35 in 21 starts. Not a strikeout pitcher, but he has three pitches, one is good curve ball. Batters hit .194 against him. He should move up the minor league chain next summer.
As far as hitters, Abraham Almonte, a 24 year old outfielder, is likely to be called up. Between Jackson and Tacoma he is batting .297 with 14 homers and 63 rbis while stealing 24 bases. A young outfielder with speed and some power needs to be looked at closely.
Stefan Romero, is a 24 year old whose future is undecided because hey keep moving him around. Most of his career was at third base, but Seager seems to have that locked up. Romero has also played second, but Nick Franklin has looked good there. Outfield? he has played there some, but the M’s, if they want to keep him, must find a position. He is batting .281 with 7 homers and 64 rbis.
It would be great to see someone catch September fire, like Almonte. But who would notice? Once football season starts, with the Seahawks more popular than a free day at Starbucks, no one will notice anthing the Mariners do, and that might be a good thing.
When the Mariners picked up Aaron Harang shortly before the season began he had not pitched in close to two weeks. But now he has six starts from the watchful eyes of the crows nest and you don’t need binoculars to see he is a disaster. The batting average against him is .317, his earned run average is 8.58, and his won-lost record is 1-5.
The Mariners with a still woeful offense can not afford throwing away games with a starting pitcher who can not keep his team in the game. In his six starts he has gone 28.1 innings, less than five innings per start. That taxes the bullpen, which outside of Tom Wilhelmsen, Oliver Perez, Carter Capps, and recently recalled Yoervis Medina, are struggling.
The question is who would fill Harang’s spot. It would have been, were he not on the DL, Danny Hultzen with a 3-1 record and 2.78 ERA. In Tacoma they have another veteran pitcher on the downside of his career in Jeremy Bonderman. He is 2-3, 3.79 with more hits than innings pitched. Not an improvement. One of the Mariners big four young guns, James Paxton is 2-3, 4.35. Andrew Carraway is 4-1, 3.19 and would be worth a look. So to would Blake Beavan, who was sent down earlier this season for being ineffective, his numbers being similar to Harang’s. But he is 2-2, 3.70 and pitching better. And what happened to Hector Noesi? He was effective in an emergency start for Harang when he had a back problem.
There are options here and the Mariners must make a choice. They came within one game of .500 before losing five straight. Three were tough losses in Cleveland, but Mariner fans want to see improvement, want to see success before summer when they are more likely to attend games. The Mariner front office have more patience than Mariner fans, but replacing Harang is a solid baseball move. If it isn’t working, fix it.
Two sailors the Mariners can not afford to sail AL West waters without are both hurting with a baseball version of scurvy. Michael Saunders has a sprained right shoulder caused from running into the bulkhead, and another Michael (is it the curse of Michael Myers), this one Morse, has a broken pinkie. Saunders is on the DL, Morse is not.
Morse started the season with a bang, as in six homers. It is hoped by all seafarers that the pinkie will not affect his swing, his mentality, or anything that affects karma surrounding his finger and his well being. His bat and pinkie are sorely needed at the helm of the Goodship Mariner in steering in runs the Mariners need to stay afloat.
One pitcher who walked the plank and was picked up a family of Cubs residing in Chicago is Kameron Loe. He epitomizes the mirage, the chimera, the total lack of mistrust in Spring Training. In the spring he pitched 12 innings, allowing no home runs; that is zero, none, you understand. Once the Mariner ship bell clanged and the ship set sail for ports afar, he threw six innings, giving up six home runs. Was he unlucky? Or throwing too a good of a pitch? Do we call him Mr. Gopher, or was he the victim of the new Mariner bandbox, with those short home run porches? Only the Cubs and time will tell.
Meanwhile the Mariners picked up Aaron Harang who will start Tuesday. They found him floating in a rocky raft dodging waves in the high seas. Blake Beavan will be the long man in the bullpen. The Mariners needed a long man in the pen as Long John Silver’s wooden leg prevented him from following through correctly. (I could have substituted Monty Stratton for Long John Silver, but that may be too esoteric).
The good news is that Brandon Maurer who pitched like an A-Ball pitcher in his first two starts looked much better against Texas. He got his first win, 4-3 over Texas, as Mariners split four game series with Rangers.
The headline is premature, but I wrote it for a reason. The Astros, whom many baseball insiders consider to be the worst team in baseball-though some say the Miami Marlins will lay claim to that dubious distinction- have moved to the AL West this season. If indeed the Astros are the worst then they will determine the outcome of the AL West Division title.
Here is my thinking, and it is the reason I predicted the Mariners would win 88 games. Los Angeles, Texas, Oakland, and yes, even Seattle, should beat up on the their new rival. The team that beats the Astros the most times in each teams 19 meetings with the Astros should be the division winner.
It looks like it won’t be Seattle. The Mariners beat Houston in the opener of the series, 3-0. It was expected. But then the Astros blasted off in the next two games leaving the Mariners lost in the foggy smoke from the lift off. Houston won 16-9 and 8-3. This from a team that could not score runs and were striking out at a record pace. In the last two games Houston belted 8 home runs to Seattle’s 5.
Everyone wanted the fences moved in. My concern was that visiting team would out homer Seattle. But I was thinking of the White Sox, the Other Sox, the Yankees, the Rangers and Angels. And oh, yes the Orioles, and Blue Jays. I was not thinking of the lowly Astros.
If Seattle can not win two of three from the Astros at home, then they are as good as dead for the division title. Not that they had much chance, but a winning record and a hoped for 88 wins would have been nice.
It could have been an aberration. Baseball is a crazy game and bad teams can beat up on mediocre and good teams.
Brandon Maurer was dreadful in his home debut and Blake Beavan has now had two straight bad outings. The bullpen was shaked, rattled, and rolled. Ackley, Smoak, and Seager can not find hits in their bats. And now after losing two to the Astros, the M’s face the Texas Rangers in a four game series. The rough start gets rougher.
The Mariners signed former Seattle outfielder Endy Chavez. recently released by the Kansas City Royals. Though he signed a minor league contract, even if he starts the season in AAA Tacoma, he most likely will be with the big club before long. Perhaps even on opening day, because back up center fielder Casper Wells has not hit well, and there have been rumors manager Eric Wedge was unhappy with Well’s sometimes lack of attention during games last season, like forgetting how many outs there were.
Jason Bay is not a center fielder, but has hit well and has a better chance at making the team than Wells. But if Bay struggles early as a backup, then look for Chavez to be called up from Tacoma. Chavez is labeled by the Mariners as ‘protection.” That translates as ‘we need him.’
The final spot in the rotation is also up for grabs, which has now come down to Jeremy Bonderman and Blake Beavan. How they pitch during this final week determines who gets the spot. Brandon Maurer will pitch the last game of spring training, indicating he has won at least the fifth spot in the rotation. Erasmo Ramirez has pitched well but instead of being stretched out, he is being is being held back. He will be pitching behind King Felix in his next outing and Ramirez has a 50 pitch limit. The Mariners are concerned he has a tricep problem, so he will be watched closely.
If Bonderman, who has not pitched in two years, but will throw 90 pitches in his next start, has a bad outing, the door opens for Beavan. If Beavan also falters, the Mariners may just flip a coin. That begs the question of why Jon Garland, who pitched well, was released. It may be that Garland wanted the Mariners to make a decision last week, perhaps there was something in his contract, that required that, and the Mariners did not want, or could not, make a decision and wanted to wait to see how things played out during the final week.
Whatever the reason it has come down to Bonderman or Beavan. But then the M’s may still surprise. Is Carlos Silva still pitching?
Garland’s release was a bit of a surprise considering he was pitching well. In 12 innings, he allowed 10 hits, walked 5, struck out 4, and had a 2.25 ERA. Not bad for a pitcher trying for a comeback after missing all of 2012 and only making 9 starts for the Dodgers in 2011. At 33, missing all that time, having had surgery, all may have played a part in the decision. If Maurer had not pitched well, perhaps Garland would still be around.
Blake Beavan was hammered Saturday and I don’t mean with alcohol. He has allowed 29 hits in 19.1 innings. The good news is that he has not walked a batter and struck out 12. He is a great control pitcher, he throws strikes. Unfortunately the strikes have been too good this spring, allowing 5 home runs among those 29 hits.
Jeremy Bonderman is still in camp, though he too is attempting a comeback after sitting for two years, and he has given up 8 runs in 10 innings.
There really is no one left to challenge Maurer. Though Charlie Furbush has started games before, he was effective in the bullpen last season and that is where the Mariners like him.
No official announcement has been made, but unless there is a trade hiding in the desert cactus, King Felix, Joe Saunders, Hisashi Iwakuma, Brandon Maurer, and Erasmo Ramirez have locked up the five starting jobs.
There are two types of baseball fans, those who love home runs and offense, and those who love pitching. I am in the latter camp. I love seeing pitchers dominate hitters, unless of course they are dominating my team. And I like seeing young pitchers earn their way onto a roster. And like them even more when they succeed. Nothing against Garland, but I am looking forward to seeing Maurer.