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.
Seattle has five free agents. One is Raul Ibanez who will be 42 next June and while he hit .267 with 24 homers and 56 rbi before the all-star game, the second half he only hit .203, 5 homers, and 9 rbi. It could be the second half he was tired, age can do that. Oliver Perez, a lefty reliever, always a sought after commodity, had a good first half, sporting a 1.75 ERA, but in second half saw an unsporting 7.94 ERA. Hard to know if Seattle wants either of these players back.
I am sure they will go without catcher Humberto Quintero and possibly Endy Chavez. The fifth, Seattle would like to sign, Kendrys Morales. But with a decent year at the plate and Scott Boras as an agent, he will be tough to sign. However, Morales’ options are limited as he is primarily a DH, so how many offers he gets is the question.
The picture above is the Good Ship Mariner coming into port, where the ship will dock and look for additional crew members, some of whom, may be shanghaied from local drinking establishments in Pioneer Square
Sailing right along, the Mariners declined options on Franklin Gutierrez, 30, because he has only played in 173 games out of the last 486 games due to injuries. Seattle can still negotiate with him. Considering how many games he missed there may not be many teams offering him a job. The Mariners could get him back cheap. He has been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory problem. He is taking medication to control the problem and the thinking is the inflammatory issue may have contributed to his other health issues. For the right price, he is worth the risk, but might be better suited for a fourth outfielder or in a platoon.
Joe Saunders is the other player whose option year was declined and his contract bought out. Left handed starters may be desired, but an 11-16 record, with a 5.26 ERA and a horrid .311 batting average against make this lefty less attractive. If they want to add a veteran free agent pitcher, which they seem to do every year, they could pursue free agent pitchers like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, or dropping down one level, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, or Scott Feldman. I say pass on A.J. Burnett, but doing so makes me think that is who they would get.
What everyday free agents the Mariners will pursue is anyone’s guess. They could use a first baseman, but only Mike Napoli, James Loney, Corey Hart (knee problems) and Justin Morneau are out there. If the M’s can’t get Morneau or Napoli (unlikely) than take a pass. The free agent market is not strong for Mariners needs, and many players want to go to a team that not only can win, but one they think is in the continental United States.
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.
It’s a good thing I am a writer not a speaker, for I can type polydactyl, but I can’t pronounce it. Polydactyl actually refers to a person with six fingers and toes, and to be political correct, so as not to offend, they are not monsters.
What the Mariners have created has nothing to do with fingers or toes. Instead they created a six headed pitching rotation for the rest of the season, or the Mariners change their mind, whichever comes first. I don’t know the word for six headed so polydactyl will have to do.
This afternoon (Thursday) Joe Saunders will wrap up the series in Kansas City. The home stand beginning with Tampa Bay will have Iwakuma on Friday, James Paxton making his major league debut Saturday, Ramirez on Sunday, then Houston comes to town Monday when Walker will pitch, then Saunders on Tuesday. Felix has been pushed back to Wednesday giving his back more rest.
With roster expansion during September it gives the Mariners a chance to rest arms. They do not want Walker to pitch more than 165 innings or so. They want to baby him as Washington did with Stephen Strasburg. Of course Strasburg had Tommy John surgery in 2010. The surgery has become common for young pitchers whose arms are babied. I have talked about this before, and will again.
It would do baseball good, not to mention young pitchers, to listen to Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, both Hall of Famers, who know something about pitching. But baseball people have trouble seeing the obvious. Year after year young arms need surgery and baseball can’t figure it out. Pitches who throw lots of innings build up arm strength, those who don’t have arm breakdowns.
And now back to the Mariners. Pray for Taijuan Walker‘s arm. James Paxton’s too while you’re at it. The Mariners can use all the sound arms they can find. We shall see how the polydactyl monster works, not just for the two rookies, but for Saunders, Felix, and Iwakuma, none of whom are accustomed to an extra days rest. Their arms may atrophy.
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.
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.
King Felix is the Mariners first ace, he with the Cy Young, the perfect game, Felix’s Court out in left field, and his love for the city of Seattle. But the Mariners have a second ace and one not up their sleeves, but out in the open for all to see. At the rate these two are pitching it would be a major crime akin to David Stern killing the Sonics for them not to make the all-star team.
Emperor Iwakuma’s numbers are a royal flush. In nine starts he is 5-1 with a 1.84 earned run average. In 59 innings the opposition is batting .183 against him and he has struck out 55, walking only 8.
While some still doubt his ability, the game he is dealing is not one where the jokers are wild. Mariner fans remember his 2012 start when he was in the bullpen, used as often as David Stern uses Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” By the all-star game he was 1-1 with an earned run average of 4.84 with one start on July 2nd. But after the all-star break he was 8-4 with a 2.50 ERA.
Since he joined the rotation July 15 of 2012 he has started 24 games with a 13-5 record and a 2.23 ERA. His performance since then puts him in the ace category. A good record, even better when you consider he has pitched for a team that scored runs last year as often as David Stern fly’s to Seattle for a cup of Starbuck’s mocha java.
In this five card stud game, the Mariners have two in King Felix and Emperor Iwakuma. It is up to Brendon Maurer, or Joe Saunders-on the road as well as home- to step up and become the third stud. I would mention Aaron Harang, but he is an old war horse, a Seattle Slew soon to go to the stud farm, or the glue factory. He can still be effective, but is too wizened to be a stud pitcher.
As far as Chancellor Stern, he is as much of a stud as Pee Wee Herman in a porn theatre. I look forward to Stern’s retirement to the bunker with Eva.