The Mariners season opener is just two weeks from yesterday. Luckily we have the NCAA tournament and the Huskies to watch those two weeks, because we have reached the official spring-training-is-incredibly-boring point. This is also the point, though, where players start to round into shape and stop experimenting with swings and new pitches and such, so the results begin to mean a little more, but not really. A look at some issues and questions still out there in Peoria after the jump!
- Cliff Lee–Here’s a good complicated situation. Lee currently has an abdominal strain suffered when he tripped over Chris Snyder, the event which led to him throwing (or not) at Snyder, which has also gained him a five game suspension. Lee told Geoff Baker today that it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be ready for opening day. Whether he misses a start or two or more remains to be seen. It could end up being a big deal, but we’ll just hope for the best and not go into that now. For the suspension, he has an appeal hearing Monday. I think it’s a decent chance the suspension is reduced, but I doubt it’ll go away totally. If he’s going to miss a week, the suspension is really no big deal. He’ll just serve it while he heals and then make his start after. If he’s going to miss a couple of starts, it gets trickier. He can go on the DL on March 26, I believe, which is perfect if he’s going to be out two or three starts. But coming off the DL, he’ll have to serve the suspension, so the team will have to time it so that he can come off the DL at the optimum time to get over the injury, serve the suspension and replace whoever is taking his starts without leaving the team too shorthanded. It does have some roster implications I’ll talk about below. Weird situation, but ultimately not a huge deal, as long as he’s not out a long time.
- Jack Hannahan will start the season on the DL due to a lingering groin injury. USS Mariner and Lookout Landing have posts up about replacement options, which are basically Matt Tuiasosopo, Josh Wilson, or maybe a trade. The breakdown: Tui has potentially the best bat, including Hannahan, and can play just about anywhere, although probably not that well; Wilson can’t hit but has a better glove; trade options are limited but not non-existent, but might not be worth it depending on when Hannahan comes back. Dave at USSM says trade, Jeff says that’d be fine but Tui’s not a bad option either. I side with Jeff heavily here. If they can pick up an improvement by trade, go for it. Otherwise, Tui might not make all the plays, he might even blow a bunch, but in limited action maybe not, and the potential offense he could bring could be quite valuable. No guarantees on any of this, but it shouldn’t matter a ton anyway. If Jack Wilson gets hurt, you’re in trouble no matter what.
- Lopez and Figgins–The move is more or less official to start the season. I heard Zduriencik on the radio this morning and he hedged his bets a tiny bit but said we were likely to see Figgy at 2B and Lopey at 3B (nicknames his own). In theory it’s a good move, and now we just have to see how it plays out. Could be great, could be terrible, could be something we don’t really think about two months into the year. On a definite positive note, an infield of Casey, Figgy, Jackey, and Lopey moves us ever closer to a team that sounds like it could have been on The Sandlot.
- Rotation–Not good. RRS and Ian Snell have looked rough. Vargas has been okay, but it doesn’t look like he’s made an unexpected breakthrough or something, so the positives are limited. Fister has been a little worse, then was pitching okay last outing before being hit by a pitch in the forearm. Probably all four make a start to begin the year with Lee out, then they boot whichever of Fister and Vargas looks worse and hope for the best, until…
- Erik Bedard. About seven months into what is normally a ten month or so recovery, he’s well ahead of schedule. They backed him off a scheduled bullpen session this week, but only to slow things down, not because of a setback. All previous caveats still apply (may not have the same stuff, can have a setback anytime, etc), but a May recovery suddenly looks quite possible. Which would really help that rotation mess above.
- Mike Sweeney–Does he make the roster? Hard to say still, although the management could be thinking something totally different from the rest of us (doesn’t seem so from some comments lately). If he makes it, it might be at the expense of Ryan Garko, largely because…
- The Mariners are now on record saying they will probably start the season with a 12 man pitching staff. It was hoped, with Felix and Cliff atop the rotation, that they could go with 11, allowing them to carry another bat on the bench, whether it be Sweeney, Langerhans/Byrnes, Tui, whoever. With Lee’s uncertainty and the rotation questions, they feel they need the extra arm right now. Might change as they get healthier, but who knows.
- Catching is looking good. Rob Johnson is not ready to go full time, but he’s getting there. Unless he proves otherwise, he should start the season in Seattle. The benefit of this is that Adam Moore should get a lot of early starts. I’m hoping he takes advantage and starts hot, securing a decent chunk of the playing time even when Ro-Jo is back. Of course, there’s always the highly likely possibility that Johnson’s new hips will supply him with power beyond anything our eyes have heretofor glimpsed!
That’s probably enough. More to come when there’s actually news.