At the moment Nori Aoki will bat leadoff and play left field. Both Jerry Dipoto, Mariner’s GM, and Scott Servais, M’s manager, have pretty much given him that job. That will be against right handed pitchers as Aoki bats left. The number two hitter could be Ketel Marte, but a 2-3-4 of Seager-Cano-and Cruz might be better at the beginning of the season. Marte impressed in his call-up last season, hitting .283 in 57 games, but the two slot puts a lot of pressure on a 22-year old to get on base for the big bats. And seasoned hitters batting 2-3-4 should create more offense.
Adam Lind at first will bat fifth giving a L-L-L-R-L in the first five batters. The sixth slot is likely Seth Smith, another left handed bat, and he would be in right if Cruz is at DH or the DH with Cruz in right.
That leaves catcher Chris Iannetta in the seventh slot with every Mariner fan hoping he will hit better than his .188 showing for the Angels in 2015. He bats right, but the only other catcher is backup Steve Clevenger who bats left, but he is also in the mix as a back up at first and occasional DH. Dipoto and Servais want Zunino to begin in Tacoma, but you never know. He has trouble with major league pitching, not much trouble in AAA, so even if he starts well in Tacoma, that is no guarantee he will hit in Seattle.
The eighth and ninth slots are likely to be Marte and Leonys Martin. Both are speedsters and base stealers and have potential for creating RBI opportunities for Aoki and Seager.
The lineup against a southpaw pitcher is harder to figure. Franklin Gutierrez and Jesus Montero-if they like his defense at first- should see playing time, meaning Aoki and Lind would sit. In that case they might bat Marte leadoff, a switch hitter, to give him the opportunity to hit higher in the lineup and depending on how he does, ease him into the second slot as the season progresses. Gutierrez in the second spot? could be. Then Cano and Cruz which would give you R-R-then L-Cano-R-Cruz, then Seager fifth from the left side. Montero sixth at first, Iannetta or Clevenger seventh, perhaps Chris Taylor as DH if makes the team and Martin ninth.
Dipoto has said there are only three spots open on the team. One is the utility player, the second is the backup first baseman, and the other is in the bullpen. The lineup looks better than the 2015 version, but then everything looks good on paper, or on the Internet.
Next week pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Short of any trades or free agent signing, both of which seem unlikely at this date, the Mariners have, for better or worse, a set lineup. There will be those who say a player could crack the lineup I am presenting, like Jason Bay, or Robert Andino, but the M’s stay with the following nine players.
Like it or not Justin Smoak is back at first base. There was talk of a trade to Boston, but talk is cheap and tiring. More about Smoak later. Dustin Ackley will be at second, Brendan Ryan and his dazzling glove at short, and Kyle Seager at third rounds out the infield. The outfield, from left to right, will be Mike Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders. Jesus Montero is the catcher and Kendrys Morales the DH.
This will be the lineup when the season starts. Ackley need to hit better, Gutierrez needs to stay healthy, and Montero needs to improve both with the bat and behind the plate. The player with the shortest leash will be Smoak. The Mariners continue to bend over backwards, way backwards, with more patience shown to him than any player in their history. If he does not get untracked in the first six weeks, he will be sitting by the water cooler.
If that happens, and the odds look good, the lineup will change. Morales would move to first and Montero would be the DH, with the possibility that if he hits at Tacoma, Mike Zunino will be the catcher. These changes would be in June.
Of course Mike Carp coud play first, so to could Raul Ibanez. The Mariners have a lot flexibility.
But the point is that Smoaky the Bear, AKA, manager Eric Wedge will be watching Smoak closely to see if he once again turns to ashes, perhaps for the last time.
Prior to Thursday’s game with Toronto, Mariner’s manager Eric Wedge said he was going with veterans, that “only veterans can get us out of this slide” meaning of course an eleven game losing streak.
But it is veterans who have gotten the Mariners in the slide to begin with. Ichiro .260 and .212 in last 30 days; Figgins .184 and .107 in last thirty; Olivo .216 and .169 in last thirty; Gutierrez .181 and .175 in last thirty.
The only two changes of note in the lineup were Figgins playing in left field and Jack Wilson at second. Wedge said he was going with veterans to snap the losing streak, but it may have more to do with showcasing Figgins and Wilson for teams looking to add veterans for the stretch. Not that the Mariners would get much, but Wilson is not part of the Mariner’s future and Figgins needs a change of scenery, as he has been a bust.
Today down 5-1, veteran Miguel Olivo belted the Mariners first grand salami of the season to tie game 5-5 in the 8th, but in the bottom half of the inning veteran Dave Pauley gave up two runs and Mariners lose again 7-5.
The Mariners offense came alive in Toronto, scoring 16 runs, but losing all three games, 6-5, 11-6, and 7-5. The bats warmed up, but the pitching deep-sixed.
It will be interesting if Wedge keeps Wilson and Figgins in the lineup when they head to Boston for a weekend season..More showcasing or more shake ups. Either way the Mariners have a chance to make history. They have lost 12 straight, two away from the team record of 14. If the Red Sox sweep them- a likely event-then a new record will be set with a chance to add-on when they go to New York Monday.
Time for the kids to play
The season is lost as far as any post season, so cheer on the team to set a new record in futility. Then hope they make some trades for decent prospects or at least warmer bodies, then let the kids play themselves into or out of jobs for next season.