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?
The Seattle Mariner‘s are hot, having won ten straight by beating the Rockies 16-6. Carlos Peguero is 8 for 19, scoring 8 runs, hitting 2 doubles and 3 home runs, while striking out only 6 times. Does it mean anything? I would like to say yes, but the answer is probably no.
In 2012, Peguero was 15-51 in spring training games, with 5 homers and 13 rbis, so he had a good spring, except for his 18 strikeouts, that is. Cutting down on his whiffs this spring is good, but no matter how hot he gets, one wonders if it will do him any good.
Spring is funny. Last spring Brendan Ryan batted .333. That translated into a .194 regular season average. Justin Smoak hit .378 and is currently batting .500, but his .378 average, like Ryan’s spring average, did not mean anything for the regular season, as his .217 average indicates.
Making the roster is a matter of numbers, but the numbers are not necessarily stats. Options factor in, as it will for Casper Wells (see below); versatility also is a factor, being able to play multiple positions only enhances a players chances; and balance, trying to get left-handed and right-handed bats to compliment each other; then there is attitude, how a player ‘goes about his business,’ a trite phrase players and broadcaster love to toss out.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Casper Wells, despite currently hitting .227 should get one of two reserve outfield spots. He is out of options, can play all three outfield positions, and has a strong arm. One can argue that Peguero is battling Raul Ibanez for the fifth spot, and there is something to that, since both are left-handed bats. But Ibanez is an organization favorite, making his third tour of duty on the Good Ship Mariner, and even at 41, he can still hit. He is 7-13 with 3 doubles, 2 homers and possesses that veteran experience and leadership that is so prized by clubs.
Best of luck Carlos. If Pete Carroll was the Mariners manager, it would be open competition, the job going to the best man. But this is baseball where players make the team for all sorts of reasons.
It is no secret that the Mariner outfield is set with Michael Morse in left, Franklin Gutierrez in center, and Michael Saunders in right. If they come out of spring training healthy, they start. Seattle will likely carry five outfielders, so that leaves two spots with veterans Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Eric Thames, Casper Wells, and Carlos Peguero, the leading candidates for the remaining two slots.
One would think Bay and Ibanez, fit well, as they are the type of veterans the Mariners are looking for to balance the young players on the team. Of the five listed I give one slot for Casper Wells, because unlike the other candidates Wells can play all three outfield positions. That is important because Gutierrez has had two injury plagued seasons. Saunders can also play all three slots, but Wells gives additional flexibility for managerial moves.
If you want balance off the bench then you want a left-handed bat, because Wells bats from the right side. That leaves Jason Bay out. He did homer in his first Mariner game, but he must have the type of spring that Eric Wedge is forced to put him on the roster. That leaves Peguero, Thames, and Ibanez.
Peguero has rocket launching power, but more often fails to connect, so Tacoma is a likely destination. Ibanez is 41, but can still hit and is a solid presence for the team. Thames has little power, but Wedge liked how he played last season. Ibanez can also play first, and DH, so he has the flexibility that Wedge likes. When you have players that can play multiple positions, it makes it easier to manuever players in tight games.
So I am predicting Wells, and Ibanez off the bench. Who makes a major league roster is not always determined by who hits best in the spring. Having a dazzling spring is good, but other factors play just as important a role. Spring stats can be deceiving because most of the hits may have come off probable minor leaguers, not true major league pitching.
Aaron Goldsmith, if you don’t know, is the new Mariner radio announcer with Rick Rizzs. After Dave Niehaus passed the Mariners did the right thing in waiting to fill the spot. Goldsmith is 29, and the first time I heard is voice he reminded me of a young Greg Schulte of the Diamondbacks, at least in the pitch of his voice. Aaron did a good job and will do the 3rd, 6th, and 7th innings this season. I plan on turning down the TV sound and listing to Rick and Aaron. At least that is my spring training plan.
The Mariners won’t move Kyle Seager to left, but consider a third baseman in waiting, one Stefen Romero, 23, a 12th round pick out of Oregon State in 2010. Don’t worry Dawg fans, he is from Tucson, Arizona, so he is not a real Oregonian.
Romero had a break through year in 2012. In 116 games split between High Desert (A) and that powerhouse Jackson team (AA), he hit .352, belting 23 homers, and driving in 101. As a result Baseball America named him to the minor league all-star team and Topps named him to the Double AA all-star team.
Obviously he had the type of season that gets noticed. So now what?
Should the Mariners not get that big bat in left, they can start Romero out at Jackson, then if he does well, promote him to Tacoma. If he continues to impress, then the Mariners will find a spot for him. If third is his best position, then Seager goes to left. But Seattle likes to retrain, which is how Dustin Ackley got to second, when he played first base and outfield in college, and Seager played second. The Mariners may try Romero at a different spot in 2013, perhaps shortstop, or left field.
Then again. . .
Maybe they can trade Romero, a pitcher or two, in a trade for Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon, who won a Gold Glove in 2012.
I know I am focused on Gordon and Billy Butler, both from the Royals, but the Mariners have young pitchers that Kansas City needs. Trader Jack could make a multi-player blockbuster deal. How about James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, Romero, Jesus Montero, Casper Wells, and the Mariner Moose for Gordon and Butler?
I told myself I would not speculate this offseason on trades because it is like trading baseball cards or projecting one’s own fantasy. But it is hard not to think about who can improve the Mariners and how to get those players. I think the trade offer I propose seems realistic, unlike those I hear on sports radio. If you have any suggestions post them here. Just call me Trader Terry.
It may surprise those who follow the Mariners that out of 30 major league teams, they are 8th in hitting, 3rd in home runs, 5th in slugging, and 17th in on-base percentage.
You may think I am making those numbers up. I am not. You may think those are numbers from a past season. They are not. The numbers are true and real and reflect the 2012 season.
Those numbers are what the Mariners do on the road, away from the Bermuda Triangle of hitting, the alien vortex and worm hole where baseballs go to die, known as Safeco Field.
That has been the Mariner story for a year and a half. They can not hit at home. There is no other story, nothing else to talk about of any meaning.
At home they hit .197 for dead last, number thirty on the charts. Also dead last in slugging at a woeful, pitiable, .291. and again they bring up the rear in on base percentage at .275. But they are 28th in home runs, with only San Diego 29th and San Francisco 30th below them.
Must be something about West Coast air. It is denser than the Amazon jungle, heavier than Prince Fielder after a steak dinner.The Mariners do not have bad hitters, just bad air.
The best Mariner hitter at Safeco is Casper Wells at a lofty .316. Hey Eric Wedge-play Casper more at home. Please.! The next four are John Jaso .255; Ichiro .234; Jesus Montero .225; and Dustin Ackley .212. Everyone else is below .200, many so far below .200 their bats are colder than an arctic freeze.
It is evident on the road they explode like Mt. St. Helens, but at home they barely register a burp. In the first five games of this ten game homestand, three with Oakland and the first two of four with Boston, they are 25 for 150, a .167 average. Somehow they have managed to win two of the five.
The Kingdome roof once caved in sending the Mariners on a real long road trip. The only thing to hope for is a rainy day when the Safeco roof is closed and it is sabotaged by Justin Smoak, forcing the Mariners to play on the road. Go Justin! Not to late to make a run at division title. Hit the road Jack.
Kevin Millwood pitched his best game of the year, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one run in seven innings of work. Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer and Casper Wells, back in his native state of New York with mom in attendance on Mother’s Day, also hit a two-run homer.
It was two ancient veterans, Millwood, 37 and Andy Pettitte, 40 in June, making his first start since 2010 dueling it out. Pettitte gave up four runs in six and a third, while Millwood baffled the Bronx Bombers.
Leading 4-1, the M’s brought in the bartender, Tom Wilhelmsen, to start the 8th. He gave up two singles, getting one out. Lefty specialist Lucas Luetge, who has not given up a run this season, came in to face Granderson and struck him out. Two down. Delabar came in and walked ARod to load bases. Then lefty Furbush came in to face Robinson Cano and walked him on four pitches to make it 4-2. Furbush bounced back, striking out Teixeira to end inning.
Millwood breathed a sigh of relief for the relief.
In the Mariner 9th, with bases loaded, two down, Casper Wells had infield hit that pitcher Clay Rapada fielded, but threw wildly, two runs scoring.
Nick Swisher led off Yankee 9th against Brandon League and hit one off the left field fence that Casper Wells ran down and thew Swisher out at third, trying for triple. Replay showed he may have been safe. Two fly outs to Wells ended game and Mariners escape with a 6-2 win and on to Boston.
The ball carries in the desert heat and Phoenix has the second highest elevation after Denver. The first home run came from the bat of Michael Saunders, who the boys on talk radio seem to think will open in center with Gutierrez out. Is somebody from the front office hinting, spoon-feeding? Why the talk about Saunders?
With Gutierrez hurt last season Saunders had his opportunity. In spring training he hit .286 with two home runs. In 58 regular season games he hit .149. Spring training is a mirage, a chimera, it is bizarro world.
In three years Saunders has played in 204 games with 12 home runs, driven in 45, with a career .196 batting average and a 31% strike out rate. Those numbers are more telling than the illusion of spring.
True he is only 25 and one can forgive the last three years as a learning experience. And he reportedly had a hitting coach this offseason to change his swing.
The mirage is reading too much into what a player does in spring by looking at his overall stats. Who is the player getting theirs hits off of in spring is more telling. Getting the majority of hits off minor leaguers and having a high rate of failure against major league pitching is a more accurate gauge then overall numbers.
Casper Wells may not play as well defensively in center, but is a far better hitter with more power. Wells got off to a great start before vertigo like symptoms saw his average drop, but he hit seven homers in 102 at bats. And playing him in center is not a big drop-off.
So as the spring unfolds beware of the heat waves creating shimmering mirages. Stay hydrated, look beyond the numbers. Hey, Carlos Peguero two homers in two games. Maybe . . .