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.
Willie Bloomquist is 37 years old and coming off knee surgery. Richie Weeks is 32 and not coming off any surgery. Seattle GM jack Zduriencik has said Weeks will compete (Jack loves saying the Pete Carroll buzz word) at the corner infield and outfield positions as will Bloomquist. It would seem the hand writing is on the wall for Bloomquist though Zduriencik denies it. I would not expect him to say anything else. Jack has said there is room for both players, but it is unlikely that Seattle will carry two utility players, both of whom bat right-handed.
Bloomquist has a slight edge because he has played all positions except catcher. Weeks, played second base in Milwaukee for 11 seasons, refused to try the outfield last season for the Brewers. Since Milwaukee did not want to pay him 11.5 million this season they said good-bye.
Weeks has played the outfield, but not since college. That was in 2002 for Southern University. However, when you have lost your everyday job, as Weeks did last season, and D-Day to spring training is close at hand and you are unsigned, the outfield or any position looks good. I think Weeks will be determined to make the team doing whatever is necessary. He could also DH allowing Cruz to play first base or left field once in a while.
Weeks did not sign a minor league contract with an invite to spring training; he was signed to the 40 man roster, meaning the Mariners expect him to make the team. Edgar Olmos a left-handed reliever, whom the Mariners picked up in November on waivers from the Marlins was designated for assignment. The Mariners have added Mike Kickham and David Rollins from the left side to compete with Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge so Olmos was expendable. It has also been rumored that Roenis Elias could be in the bullpen.
Spring training with sort out the lefties and who wins the utility job. Bloomquist is fan favorite, but I am betting on Weeks.
The Mariners were hitting the ball everywhere in spring training and in the season opening series in Anaheim, the Mariners swept the Angels by hitting the ball everywhere, just like spring training. In fact they pounded the Angels outscoring them 26-8 with 18 runs coming with two outs, hitting .429 with runners in scoring position. They outhit the Angels 34-17.
There were many questions that needed answers: Would Justin Smoak finally do something this year? He was 6 for 13, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 7 rbis. Would Dustin Ackley get untracked? He was 4 for 11, a double and triple with 4 rbis. Can Corey Hart come back from his year off? He is 3 for 9 with a home run. Would rookies Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero hit major league pitching? Romero went hitless in first game then got two hits Wednesday night, one an rbi double. Almonte is 3-13 with 2 doubles and 2 rbis. Zunino the young catcher is hitting .333 with a triple and homer. Brad Miller had a 2 homer game and is hitting .333 And that Cano guy is hitting .455.
Are the questions answered?
No, but give them credit for doing what they did in the spring. For once the Mariners are off to a good start at 3-0.
And Pitching? Erasmo Ramirez following King Felix in the rotation pitched 7 innings, 6 k’s, no walks, and 2 runs. Wednesday, lefty James Paxton, who one pretentious reporter covering the Mariners claims should be a reliever, likening Paxton to Eric Bedard, was even better, pitching 7, allowing 2 hits, walking 2, and striking out 9. Paxton is 5-0 as a starter with a 1.16 ERA. In 31 innings, 30 k’s and 17 hits. Bullpen? I say BS. Paxton watched tape of fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw and based on what he saw, changed his delivery and you can see the results.
We have yet to see the young Cuban Roenis Elias or Chris Young making his comeback. But so far, so good.
Yes there will be rough waters during the 2014 cruise, every team has them. Time will answer all questions, but for now enjoy the smooth sailing.
The Mariners need a right handed bat and outfielder Cole Gillespie, 29, hit .391 in 23 at bats, driving in seven runs. He has major league experience having played with the D-backs, Cubs, and Giants. But despite his performance and despite providing a need he was sent to the Mariners triple AAA affiliate Tacoma. If he were a Seahawk he might make the team because the Seahawks about competing and winning the job.
Baseball is different. Gillespie was a non-roster invitee. If he made the team, somebody must be released from the 40 man roster. Of course they took into account his major league average of .225 in 169 at bats with 3 homers. As we all know spring training is an illusion. He may have gotten many hits off triple A pitchers. His .225 average is a more accurate measurement of what Seattle would get.
The Mariners plan to carry five outfielders. Dustin Ackley seems to have won the left field job; Abraham Almonte has been playing a lot of centerfield; and Michael Saunders and Corey Hart make four. That leaves the last spot between Logan Morrison, who can also play first and DH; left handed bat Endy Chavez, 36; and rookie Stefan Romero, another right handed bat. Romero has 9 hits, but his 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers indicate he has extra base power. Despite being a left handed bat Morrison has versatility to stay and Romero is on the 40 man roster, as is Morrison. That leaves Chavez as odd man out, at least by logic. As the Mariners have some good young players on the 40 man roster, they are unlikely to part with any to make room for a 36 year old veteran.
So baseball, as we see with the Mariners, is not about competition. It is more a numbers game, getting the right balance of left and right bats, left and right pitching, preserving the 40 man roster as much as possible. Of course if the Mariners keep Chavez and send down Romero, there will be much head scratching. But with the Mariners, who knows.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has said Justin Smoak is the Mariners first baseman. Does that mean joy in Mudville?
In Smoak’s first nine games he is 7-21 (.333) with 3 doubles, a homer, and 4 rbi’s. I am sure part of the reason is that he is a switch hitter and they need hitters from the right side when facing lefties. McCelndon would like to see Smoak have 40-45 doubles and 20-25 homers. The home run numbers are withing reach as he had a career high 20 last season, but he has never came close to 40 doubles, his high being 24 in 2011. McClendon is overly optimistic about a career .227 hitter and has fallen prey to everyone who watches Smoak in spring or goes on a hot streak in between his droughts.
In case Mariner fans have forgotten last spring Smoak batted .407 with 5 homers and 15 rbis. Everyone expected a great year where he would live up his advanced billing. But he hit .238 and despite the 20 homers had only 50 rbis. I hope for the best, but I have seen this every year and by now, as the saying goes, you are what you are. And Smoak is what he is and not what people think he is.
Spring Training is a chimera, the numbers meaningless. Consider Jesus Montero whose awesome spring of 2013 saw a .400 average with 2 homers and 11 rbis. He hit so poorly and was so bad as catcher he was sent to Tacoma to learn how to play first base, then was suspended for PEDS. He hit .208, 3 homers, 9 rbis with Seattle And it has been reported he came to training camp 40 pounds overweight.
Another example is Mike Morse who hit .357 with 9 homers and 15 rbis. Everyone envisioned 30-35 home runs, but he played himself out of Seattle, ending up in Baltimore and now is in San Francisco’s camp. Morse hit .226 with 13 home runs and 27 rbis with Seattle.
One more. Jason Bay .321, 2 home runs, 6 rbis and during regular season .204, 11 home runs, 20 rbis and was released.
Of those four who had great camps, three did not finish the season with Seattle. I call it Smoak ball-hits in spring, not in summer-because by summer the Smoak has cleared.
My e-book has no Smoak nor smoke. http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394520850&sr=1-1
Who knew Chone Figgins was a head case.
He played himself out of the starting lineup in Seattle, alienated the M’s fan base, and only Alex Rodriquez has received more boos from Mariner fans, and Figgins received his boos wearing a Mariner uniform, not a Ranger uniform.
Figgins is attempting a comeback with the Los Angeles Dodgers and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times we learn what precipitated his humpty-dumpty fall from grace. When asked what went wrong in Seattle, Figgins answered, “It kind of says it all when you signed a $38 million contract (four years) and they pinch hit for you in the fourth game.” The implication is that his confidence was shattered, that he felt the M’ lost faith in him. What a devastating blow!
He hit .259 that first year (2010), his best with Seattle. He then hit .188 and .181. So Chone is blaming his three year failure on being pinch hit for in his 4th game. He couldn’t recover over three years? And what are the Dodger brass going to make out of this? I don’t know about them, but to me it says he can not accept responsibility for his failure. It was lack of confidence in himself-if indeed it was-not the Mariner’s. If you can’t accept your own failures, instead blaming others, possibly even teammates, what does that say about your character? His quote reflects a whiner, not a man who accepts responsibility, and nobody likes a whiner.
It also says he is not a competitor. If he wanted his starting job it was his to take by playing the way he did for the Angels. Instead he sat and moped and whined. Maybe, as some suggest, it was that big contract that did him in. There have been players who failed after getting big money. Whether the pressure of living up to expectations, feeling they must put up big numbers to justify the contract, or once they get the big money, they slack is the question.
But Figgins humpty-dumpty fall being blamed on the Mariners leaves Chone with egg on his face. And all the Dodgers men couldn’t put him together again.
No whining in my baseball E-novel based on 1911 New York Giants: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393522218&sr=1-3
Breaking news. Just as I was finishing this blog, Franklin Gutierrez has told the Seattle Mariners he is done with baseball.
Jesus Montero was suspended in 2013 for using Peds; not a good thing to do when you are trying to establish a major league career. He came to spring training recently, admitted his mistake, apologized, and said he was ready to move forward. The problem is that he has put on weight, and not juts a few pounds. He joked that all he did in the offseason was eat. But when it looks like 15-20 pounds of flab, he should not be joking.
I don’t think Montero gets it. A young kid with the opportunity for a major league career , everything in front of him for the asking and he gets suspended for cheating. Instead of devoting himself to rebuilding his reputation by working out, staying in shape, having a goal of making the Mariners by impressing them with his hitting skills, he spends the offseason getting fat. He simply does not care. He is immature. By the time he gains maturity-if he does-it may be too late. He threw away last season and it looks like he may throw away this season. Send him to A-ball and see if he gets the message and wakes up.
Rumors say the Mariners are close to signing Nelson Cruz, but Seattle would do better to pursue the last two quality starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. Hisashi Iwakuma has a strained tendon in his right middle finger (no jokes please) and Taijuan Walker has been temporarily shut down with a strained shoulder. In Walker’s case, the Mariners say it is not unusual for a young arm, when working itself into pitching shape. They say they are not concerned. But we all know pitching is delicate. Injuries, no matter how minor, can be indicative of a larger problem. Will Iwakuma’s finger be right all season? Will Walker develop shoulder problems like so many young arms? With Danny Hultzen already mending and the Mariners with little veteran experience to rely on, need to sign Jimenez or Santana and forget Cruz. The old baseball adage is true, you can never have enough pitching.
The recent signings to minor league contracts of 37 year old lefty Randy Wolf who missed last season with elbow surgery and 31 one year old Zach minor, also with elbow issues, is not the answer. The Mariners signed of slew of sore armed pitchers trying for a comeback. Signing a veteran with no health issues is an answer.