Monday, March 31, 2008

Note: Re-vote on the Poll

Go ahead and re-vote on the poll. I forgot that Wilkerson was already in a platoon, so he doesn't really qualify.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Series Preview: M's vs. Rangers, 3/31-4/2

The Texas Rangers come to Safeco Field for Seattle's home opener.

Projected Starters:
3/31 - Erik Bedard vs. Kevin Millwood
4/01 - Felix Hernandez vs. Vicente Padilla
4/02 - Carlos Silva vs. Jason Jennings

Keys to the Series:

Scoring off the starters: Millwood, Padilla and Jennings have all had flashes of brilliance at some point in their careers, but they have struggled in recent years and it is important for Seattle to score on them early in the games. Texas' bullpen is much more talented than their rotation, featuring former Japanese closer Kazuo Fukumori, one of the best setup men in the league in Joaquin Benoit, former Seattle closer "Everyday" Eddie Guardado, a young up-and-coming closer in C.J. Wilson and some capable arms in middle relief.

Neutralizing Texas' offense: While Bedard and Hernadez are one of the top 1-2 punches in the league, shutting down Texas' starting lineup is no easy task. 1-5 they'll be starting Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley and Hank Blalock, a combination that will surely be one of the more productive 1-5s in the game by the end of the season. Hamilton, Bradley and Blalock are all 30 home run threats if they stay healthy, while Young is usually among the league leaders in hits and Kinsler is quickly becoming one of the best offensive second basemen in the league.

Saving the bullpen: Seattle's decision to go six in the bullpen rather than seven, paired with their decision to send rubber-armed reliever R.A. Dickey to AAA makes it more important than ever for Seattle's starters to go deep into the ballgames. Last season the bullpen was overworked early in the year causing most our relievers to fade during the final months. Ideally Seattle should want Bedard, Hernandez and Silva to get through six innings in their first starts of the season.

Getting off on the right foot: It's the first series of the year, and it's important for our players to get their seasons started on a positive note. Bedard and Ichiro Suzuki will look to rebound from a tough Spring Training, while Richie Sexson and Jose Lopez will look to rebound from awful 2007 campaigns. Raul Ibanez got off to a rough start last year before rebounding in the second half. If he can get off to a good start it will be a big help to the offense. Health early in the season will be important as well. Bedard has been somewhat injury prone throughout his career, Sexson was battling bursitis during Spring Training, Mark Lowe is coming off a major arm injury. Seattle has one of the top training staffs in all of baseball and injuries are rarely an issue. Let's keep it that way.

It's Opening Day! There are few regular season games as exciting as this one and I hope you can all watch it. Go Mariners!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Final Roster, Opening Day Lineup Set

Cha-Seung Baek
Miguel Batista
Erik Bedard
Sean Green
Felix Hernandez
Mark Lowe
Eric O'Flaherty
J.J. Putz
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn

Jaime Burke
Kenji Johjima

Adriane Beltre
Yuni Betancourt
Willie Bloomquist
Miguel Cairo
Jose Lopez
Richie Sexson
Jose Vidro

Raul Ibanez
Charlton Jimerson
Mike Morse
Ichiro Suzuki
Brad Wilkerson

R.A. Dickey cleared waivers was sent to AAA Tacoma after Seattle sent minor league catcher Jair Fernandez and cash to the Twins in order to keep him. My theory is that Seattle is still trying to trade Baek and they'll call Dickey up when it happens. Another is that manager John McLaren may be a little weary about having a knuckleballer coming out a the 'pen, a concern I wrote a lot about before I had warmed up to the idea of having Dickey around. The last would be that they have invested a lot into Baek and want to give him every opportunity. If he struggles and is unable to work enough innings to keep this small bullpen afloat, that's probably the end of the line for him.

Greg Norton accepted a AAA assignment as well, making it an easy choice for McLaren to have Jimerson on the roster. I am glad Jimerson made the team. He will be Seattle's only backup that is a natural outfielder and he's going to steal some bases off the bench.

The surprise surrounding Mike Morse is no longer that he'll make the team, but that he'll be platooning in right field with Brad Wilkerson. I had almost assumed that Wilkerson would be part of a platoon coming into camp, most likely with Wlad Balentien, but the idea was dismissed by McLaren at some point. Now that we know they're going with a platoon, you have to realize that Balentien wasn't sent down just because they want to get him more starts, but because he really does have some more work to do before he's major league ready. I am assuming that Morse will start against lefties and Wilkerson against righties, but if you look at Wilkerson's splits you would find that Wilkerson hits lefties much better throughout the course of his career.

With the exception of Brandon Morrow starting the year in the minors, the bullpen I predicted back in Febuary proved accurate. Score one for the home team!

McLaren also announced the Opening Day lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki, CF
Jose Lopez, 2B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Richie Sexson, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Jose Vidro, DH
Kenji Johjima, C
Yuni Betancourt, SS

The only "surprise" here is that Sexson and Beltre are batting 4th and 5th, despite McLaren announcing during the final weeks of Spring Training that they would hit 4th and 6th. Obviously things could still change, but this is the lineup to expect.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Morse Makes Team, Who Else?

I was writing about some other M's tidbits while watching the Mariners play the Cubs, but some breaking news came about so it's time to shift gears.

I had read some discussion in the Seattle Times forum about Bill Bavasi calling Mike Morse "a lock" to make the ballclub on radio, and now Shannon Drayer has confirmed it.

Bavasi probably jumped the gun a little bit, because some announcements were expected after the game, according to Seattle P-I's John Hickey.

The bench picture is starting to clear up, as Willie Bloomquist, Jaime Burke, Miguel Cairo and now Morse have all been guaranteed spots. Morse looked as if he still had a spot to earn today, going 3-for-4 with a big home run.

Whether or not Seattle chooses to carry Greg Norton or Charlton Jimerson will likely depend on reliever Brandon Morrow's status. The aforementioned forum discussion mentioned that Bavasi may have hinted that he would go with the 11-man pitching staff, though Hickey had this to say today:

One thing manager John McClaren said is that right-handed reliever Brandon
Morrow is not, repeat not, headed to the disabled list. there has been some
suggestion that Morrow, who missed two weeks mid-camp, wasn't quite ready to be
Seattle's eighth-inning guy, but the Mariners seem to think otherwise.


While Hickey and the Tribune's Ryan Divish took this to mean Morrow will be with the big club, I still think he'll start in the minors. Divish updated his post around 9 pm after seeing Morrow upset in the locker room, speculating that he was sent down. Greg Norton and Charlton Jimerson are certainly hoping Morrow isn't on the Opening Day roster, because there is no spot for either of them if Seattle goes with a 12-man pitching staff.

Now that Morse is on for sure, who makes the club if Morrow doesn't? At this point Jimerson makes more sense to me. Morse's outfield defense is pretty shotty, so he would probably be more of a spot starter while Jimerson would be a good late inning defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez or Brad Wilkerson. However, McLaren's fondness for Norton is well documented so it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see him make the team, though the defense would suffer.

No news as far as the Dickey vs. Baek battle. Churchill of Prospect Insider rambles on in the comments section about Seattle trying to slip Dickey through waivers or trying to work a trade with the Twins in an attempt to justify their rumor from a couple days ago. Divish, in the aforementioned blog update, thinks that Baek will take Morrow's spot on the rotation. While I could see this happening, I think it would be foolish and pointless to carry two long relievers in the 'pen.

I'll update the bottom of this post tonight if anything else is announced, so keep checking back. I have a feeling that there will be official announcements regarding Morse and Morrow, though Dickey vs. Baek and Norton vs. Jimerson should still come down to the wire.

Update 10:20 pm PST: Ryan Divish and Geoff Baker report that Brandon Morrow has been optioned to AA West Tennessee and Jeremy Reed has been optioned to AAA Tacoma. It seemed apparent that Morrow would start in the minor leagues after having control issues since experiencing "dead arm syndrome" while in Arizona. Manager John McLaren said the team chose Tennessee because of the warmer weather.

The Reed move is no shock, as he had the slimmest chance of any outfielder to make the team. He'll return to Tacoma where he led the PCL in hits last year. There is no future for Reed in Seattle, and it appears that Bavasi is doing the nice thing and trying to trade him to a better situation, something that he is known for doing.

Final Roster Decisions Loom; Last Predictions

Well, I think the performances in tonight's ballgame given us a better indication of how the Mariners' Opening Day roster will look.

Yesterday afternoon and this morning there were rumors going around that Rule-5 pick R.A. Dickey was offered back to the Twins. Prospect Insider was the only site with this info, and Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times called Dickey's roster inclusion "a given" as recently as this afternoon. After thinking about it today it boiled down to one question: Why would Seattle pitch Dickey tonight if they were giving him back anyway?

Seattle wanted to see how Dickey's knuckleball looked outside of the Arizona air. I am assuming that they were going to make their final decision on who the long reliever would be based on tonight's appearance. Most of us had a hard time believing Prospect Insider's "report" this morning, and it looks like they are second-guessing themselves as well. Their sidebar now reads:

Watching R.A. Dickey tonight, albeit versus an awful lineup the San Francisco Giants put out there, makes ya think twice about potentially picking Cha Seung Baek over the knuckleballer, eh?

If Baek's durability wasn't a big question mark, I'd prefer him to Dickey. But I think the M's are nuts if they don't trade Baek and keep the 33-year-old.

Dickey pitched brilliantly tonight, tossing 5 scoreless innings of 1 hit ball. His knuckler was dancing and he was mixing it well with his fastball. R.A. Dickey is going to be on this team and their shouldn't be any doubt about it. Cha-Seung Baek pitched great this spring, but Dickey's skillset is more of what manager John McLaren is looking for. Dickey isn't going anywhere.

As for the rest of the bullpen, I think Brandon Morrow's outing helped sort a lot of things out. He came in very wild, especially with his breaking pitches, and loaded the bases with three straight walks. He then opted to repeatedly throw his fastball down the middle to the next three hitters, which amazingly led to a popup, a strikeout and a flyout. He only gave up one run in his inning of work tonight, but that looks awful given the fact that he didn't surrender any hits. Against a better team that may have been a 5 run inning.

Morrow could still make the team, but I think he'll start the year in AAA Tacoma. That would be his first minor league stint since he pitched 7 games in rookie ball and one game in high-A back in 2006.

With that, the Opening Day bullpen will likely include J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Mark Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith and R.A. Dickey. McLaren could opt to carry deserving long reliever Cha-Seung Baek on the team as well, but it would not improve the team and it would only be to buy some time for Seattle to trade him.

Speaking of trade, I have a hard time believing Seattle can trade him for anything worth while at this point. I'm sure interested teams have read Baek's quotes about opting for free agency rather than reporting to AAA. I'm sure they're also aware of Dickey's performance this spring. Why would a team give up anything worth while for Baek when they can just wait until he's a free agent?

If he goes with the 6-man bullpen, McLaren has five bench spots with two left to fill. Willie Bloomquist, Jaime Burke and Miguel Cairo all have job security, leaving Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse, Charlton Jimerson and Greg Norton as the only position players left in camp without a guaranteed roster spot. I think it's safe to pencil Norton in at this point. McLaren reportedly wants him on the team but his lack of versatility rule him out as a possibility on a 4-man bench. With two spots available McLaren can carry both Norton and an outfield, making Norton's lack of defensive skills obsolete.

Reed should fail to make the roster. McLaren stated a long time ago that he wanted a right-handed outfielder on the bench, something that Reed isn't. I believe that Reed is being showcased for other teams, and that is the only reason he's still on the roster and getting playing time. It's been widely reported that both the Rays and Padres have recently contacted the Mariners about Reed.

So it comes down to Mike Morse versus Charlton Jimerson for the last spot. To many fans Morse seems like the obvious answer. 81% of you think he should make the team, according the poll that is currently running on the right sidebar. He's been hitting a ton this spring, can play four positions, five in a pinch. He seems like a good bench player, right? Not so fast.

Many have reported that McLaren favors Jimerson, and Jimerson is the better option when you consider the position Seattle is trying to fill: fourth outfielder. Morse is a better hitter, but he is atrocious when playing in the outfield. He's a converted infielder with Raul Ibanez range who takes bad routes to fly balls. Jimerson, on the other hand, is a natural outfielder with fantastic range and a good arm. He can play center field, unlike Morse, and would also be Seattle's fastest baserunner off the bench.

The only benefit I see to having Morse on the team is that he would be a better offensive option than Bloomquist and Cairo when it comes to spelling Adrian Beltre and his aching thumb at third. His value at first base is hindered by the potential presence of Norton, who would be a better offensive option should Sexson slump again or get hurt.

There are still tough decisions to be made but as of right now, Friday at 12:06 AM PST, this is the team I expect to see on Opening Day:

Miguel Batista
Erik Bedard
R.A. Dickey
Sean Green
Felix Hernandez
Mark Lowe
Eric O'Flaherty
J.J. Putz
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn

Jaime Burke
Kenji Johjima

Adrian Beltre
Yuni Betancourt
Willie Bloomquist
Miguel Cairo
Jose Lopez
Greg Norton
Richie Sexson

Raul Ibanez
Charlton Jimerson
Ichiro Suzuki
Brad Wilkerson

The only prediction I don't feel good about is Jimerson over Morse. That could go either way, but if Morse is picked the defense suffers. How do you all think the final cuts will go?

Morrow: MLB or AAA?
Norton, Jimerson, Reed or Morse for the final bench spot(s)?
Dickey or Baek in long relief?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

GameBlog 3/27: M's at Giants

Never done this before, but I'll pull a Geoff Baker and give some comments throughout the game for those of you who can't watch the game . I'll update this every half inning so keep checking in! I'm trying to see if this is something I want to do during the season. Let me know what you think. (Please excuse any typos or funny sounding sentences. I was typing as fast as I can throughout much of the game, and wasn't able to make sure everything was readable.)

Recap - The good: Yuniesky Betancourt (2-for-2, 2B, BB, HR, 5 RBI, 3 R), R.A. Dickey (5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K). The bad: Richie Sexson and Ichiro Suzuki (0-for-4, 2 K each). The ugly: Brandon Morrow (1 IP, 3 BB, 1 ER).

Check back later tonight for a post on the state of the Mariners' roster. How was the game post? I think next time I won't do it backwards. I've never understood why Baker does it like that.

Bottom 9 - Green enters to game for San Francisco's last chance, and ends a quick inning with a strikeout. Game over, Mariners win 7-2.

Top 9 - Jimerson leads off by smoking a ball to straight-away center field, but it is handled easily by Rajai Davis. Sean Green gets up in the 'pen as Huelett flies out to right; 2 outs. Greg Norton is called out on a bang-bang play to conclude a quick inning.

Bottom 8 - Rowland-Smith is back out there. Triunfel got to a ball deep in the hole between short and third. He winged out from shallow left field and just missed getting the runner on a seemingly impossible play. I've read he has the best arm in the entire organization, and I don't doubt that for a second.

RRS is on fire as he strikes out former Mariner Justin Leone for his 4th of the game. Eugenio Velez reaches on a throwing error by Triunfel, but RRS recovers by getting a couple popups to end the inning. His line: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 K.

Top 8 - Burke grounds out and here comes Carlos Triunfel. I very excited to see this kid swing the bat. M's broadcaster Dave Simms keeps raving about the defensive play he made the other day, though I've gotten the impression that he's not a great defender overall. He reaches for one and pops out to the second baseman. Jeremy Reed grounds out to end the inning.

Bottom 7 - Ryan Rowland-Smith enters the game to pitch. Joining him are Matt Tuiasosopo and Greg Norton. RRS is probably a lock now that Rhodes has been cut, and Norton is looking like he has a much better chance to make the team after Morrow's outing, but I'll get into that later. RRS gives up a couple singles to start the inning followed by a strikeout on a checkswing by Rajai Davis. He's got a really nice breaker working tonight; down goes Lewis on one of them. Back-to-back strikeouts for RRS; 2 on, 2 out. Durham hits a blooper into right for an RBI single; 7-2 Mariners. RRS gets a called third strike on pinch-hitter Brian Horwitz, stirking out the side.

He looked really good today, despite giving up his first run of the spring on three singles. Two of those hits were dying quails into right, so he was definately effective.

Top 7 - Looks like Mel Stottlymyre is talking to Brandon Morrow about release point in the dugout. Mel seems to be the perfect pitching coach for a guy like Morrow, but only time will tell.

Sexson grounds out to 2nd for the first out. Michael Wilson, who will likely start the year in AA, strikes out for the second out. Morse also is blown away by San Francisco reliever Merkin Valdez. Quick inning; Seattle still leads 7-1.

Bottom 6 - Brandon Morrow enters the game to pitch. Jeremy Reed, Charlton Jimerson and #1 prospect Carlos Triunfel enter the game as well. Morrow is really wild out there, walking Lewis and Durham back-to-back. Make that 3 batters straight as he has given out another free pass to Randy Winn. With three on and no outs Morrow starts rearing back and throwing fastballs down the middle, getting Molina to pop up to center; Lewis tags and scores. Morrow is really looking like a one-dimensional pitcher with his only controllable pitch being his fastball. Luckily he was able to blow three of them by Aaron Rowand before registering another walk. 2 outs, one run in and two on. He continues throwing fastballs down the middle but gets away with it as Rich Aurilia flies out to right-center to retire the side.

I'm not very impressed with Morrow today. He seems healthy enough, hitting 96 on the radar gun, but he is having trouble controlling his pitches, especially his secondary stuff. I think Morrow will probably start the year in AAA, but more on that later.

Top 6 - Another pitching change for San Francisco as 39-year-old right-hander Keiichi Yabu enters the game. Brandon Morrow is up in the bullpen. Tonight will likely determine whether or not Morrow makes this team as he's been struggling as of late. Betancourt walks 4 pitches. Highly touted prospect Michael Saunders pinch hit for the pitcher, putting some really nice swings on the ball. He crushed one out of the park but just foul down the right field line and yanked another one foul and deep. He finally knocked a single in front of right fielder Randy Winn, moving Betancourt to third. I really like Saunders and I think he'll be a big part of outfield sooner than later.

Ichiro lines out to second base and they try to double up Saunders at first. Betancourt catches them sleeping and sneaks home , putting Seattle up 7-0; heads up play by Yuni. The cameras didn't pick it up, but it looks like he bolted home while 1st baseman Rich Aurilia was talking to the pitcher. Lopez follows with an infield single and Tug Huelett pinch runs for him. Raul strikes out to end the inning, stranding two.

Bottom 5 - Dickey is back out there for his 5th inning of work. He threw a knuckleball with some completely unnatural movement to Randy Winn which resulted in a groundout. I think that one danced the most of any so far.

Another quick inning for Dickey. He's looking really great and I haven't seen but one good swing off of him so far. His night is likely done for the evening: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K.

Top 5 - The Giants bring in big lefty Erick Threets. Jose Lopez is out after lining out to 3rd on a 2-0 pitch. Mariners commentator Mike Blowers talked about how Lopez has been taking a lot more pitches since he was put in the 2-hole, so that's a good sign. Ibanez follows by working another count to 3-2 and draws another walk.

Richie Sexson drives a 2-2 pitch hard and deep down the right field line for what seems to be a double, but a late foul calls resets the play. Sexson goes on to foul off a bunch of pitches before striking out on a tough 3-2 pitch down and in for the second out. He does look a lot better swinging the bat theh he did towards the end of last year.

Brad Wilkerson was nailed on the right elbow on an 0-2 pitch. It was a big breaker that we was trying to hang in on and it didn't break enough. Wilkerson left the game for pinch runner Mike Wilson. It's probably nothing serious but with Opening Day right around the corner it was a smart idea to get him out of there. Ibanez grounds out to end the inning.

Bottom 4 - Dickey finally gives up a base hit. Giants catcher Benji Molina did a fantastic job staying on the pitch and knocked a pitch off the ground into left field.

Dickey throws more fastballs than I would have expected. The fact that he can chuck it up to 87 MPH makes it possible for him to throw more than a typical knuckleballer. He blew one by Aaron Rowand on a 3-2 count for the first out. Aurilia grounds into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Top 4 - Cain blows down Wilkerson for his 6th strikeout of the game. He's looking to have a really nice year, but he'll probably suffer again from a lack of run support. Mike Morse showed some good patience and worked the count to 3-2 and drew the walk. Still no word on what manager John McLaren is going to do with the bench.

Jaime Burke bounces a ball in the SS/3B hole and is picked up by the shortstop Bocock. He tries to spin and get the force at second but throws wide. Morse moves to 3rd and Burke makes it to 2nd. They're giving Burke a basehit with the runners moving up on Bocock's second error of the game.

Betancourt comes up and drives a high pitch into the left-center gap that carries into the first row of seats for a homer. He's looking good tonight and has 5 RBIs already in this ballgame. I think he's poised for another good season and may surprise some people.

Dickey and Ichiro both ground out to second to close out the inning. Seattle up 6-0.

Bottom 3 - Dickey is throwing some really nice pitches. It looks like Seattle has turned him into a 3-pitch pitcher: fastball (mid/high-80s), hard knuckleball (high-70s/low-80s ) and slow knuckleball (low-70s). He had some good action on some balls and breezed through another inning.

Top 3 - Ichiro strikes out for the second time in the ballgame on an inside fastball. Jose Lopez follows by reaching and tapping out to third on a 0-1 pitch. Raul Ibanez works the count to 3-0 and walks on 6 pitches. Sexson drives a 3-1 pitch to deep right-center, but it's pulled in by Winn for the third out.

Bottom 2 - Dickey's throwing some good knuckleballs and mixing it well with his fastball. Rich Aurilia reached on an error when Jose Lopez misplayed a tough short-hop, but Dickey escaped the inning unscathed.

Top 2 - Matt Cain is San Francisco's starting pitcher, by the way, and strikes out Richie Sexson on a very questionable 3-2 fastball. It's Spring Training for the umpires too, I suppose. Brad Wilkerson is next, and turns on a 0-2 pitch and hits it hard through between the 2nd and 1st basemen for a single. Mike Morse is starting at third base tonight, and strikes out swinging on a 1-2 fastball right down the middle. Jaime Burke follows with a nice line drive basehit into left. Runners on first and second with 2 outs.

Yuni Betancourt is up and lines a hard ball into the left-center gap. Wilkerson scores easily, Burke is waived around and is safe on a bad throw. Betancourt comes all the way around as well. They give him a double and he scores on an error. Mariners up 3-0.

Bottom 1 - This is my first look at R.A. Dickey this spring. He walked the first batter Fred Lewis on five pitches, all fastballs in the mid-80s. The knuckleball came out for the second hitter, Ray Durham, and looked pretty good.

Dickey has one hell of a pickoff move. He was close to getting Lewis on the first two attempts and nailed him on his third try. Should Dickey make the team, that pickoff move is going to be really important to him since players are going to love running on his slow stuff.

Durham grounds out on a 3-1 pitch for the second out. Dickey throws his first wild knuckler with Randy Winn at the plate, but to his credit Jaime Burke wasn't trying too hard to get it with no runners on. Winn walks. It looks like Dickey is a little wilder when he tries to slow the knuckleball down, something Seattle has been urging him to do. Dickey throws a rare "hard" knuckler. Wow, a wicked looking lofty knuckleball got catcher Benji Molina swinging on a 1-2 pitch for the third out. So far, so good for Dickey.

Top 1 - I came in a little late but the M's went down 1-2-3.

Mariners Lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki, CF
Jose Lopez, 2B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Richie Sexson, 1B
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Mike Morse, 3B
Jaime Burke, C
Yuni Betancourt, SS
R.A. Dickey, SP

Other Mariner Pitchers:
Brandon Morrow, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Sean Green

Giants Lineup:
Lewis, LF
Durham, 2B
Winn, CF
Molina, C
Aurilia, 1B
Castillo, 3B
Bocock, SS
Cain, SP

Other Giant Pitchers:
Threets, Yabu, Valdez, Hennessey, Walker

(no, the Giants players do not have first names.)

Dickey Sent Back?

Prospect Insider's sidebar:

After conversations with a representative of a team that trains in Arizona, it appears that the Mariners have offered R.A. Dickey back to the Minnesota Twins and/or placed the knuckleballer on waivers.

If this information proves to be correct, this will be a move that surprises a lot of people. The media, enamored with the knuckleball, has been making it sound like Dickey was a lock to make the 'pen and slowly but surely had me warming up to the idea of his roster inclusion sometime in mid-March.

If Dickey's out then Cha-Seung Baek is in. Both pitched brilliantly this spring, so it's difficult to argue either way.

I'm not completely sold though. The aforementioned quote is more heresay and rumor than report. KOMO's Shannon Drayer wrote yesterday that "RA Dickey will get a look in the heavier air of San Francisco."

I'll keep you posted. Believe it? Don't believe it? I'm certainly skeptical. Would you rather see Baek or Dickey on the roster?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday's Ommisions (so far)


  • Just because Arthur Rhodes doesn't make the Opening Day roster doesn't mean he won't be with the big club as soon as he's ready, much to my dismay. Ryan Rowland-Smith is the answer here, not Rhodes. Manager John McLaren's undying loyalty to veterans is probably the worst trait he picked up from being Lou Pinella's right hand man all those years. I'm surprised he hasn't tried to sign Jay Buhner and Rich Amaral to minor league deals while they were down in Arizona.
  • Jeremy Reed is garnering some trade interest. Tampa Bay and San Diego are the two most talked about teams, though I'm not sure what we'd get back. Geoff Baker speculates that TB could send SP Edwin Jackson. There were rumors back in December that Jackson could be Seattle bound, but nothing came of it. I'm not sure what the point in having Jackson would be, but stockpiling young pitching is never a bad idea, especially when they have Jackson's upside. He would obviously have no spot on the current big league roster however, and I still think Brandon Morrow would get first crack at a rotation spot if something should become available.
  • Everyone is saying that Jose Lopez is likely to start the year in the 2-hole. My first reaction was a negative one, but I'm not really sure how I would feel about that. He has done well in that spot before, hitting .283 in 438 career at bats there, but he certainly lacks the patience and on-base skills of your ideal number two hitter.

There are something like four posts today, so make sure you don't miss anything! Let's get some discussion going though, it's been a little boring around here lately!

Escobar Finished?

Well, Seattle needed help to win the division and got it when the Angels' dueling aces John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar were said to miss the first month or so. Now, according to the LA Times, Escobar could be done for the year and could even call it a career. His shoulder injury, now diagnosed as a tear, could require surgery. The decision on whether or not to have surgery will not be made for a couple more weeks, but either way Seattle benefits.

Please, no cheering in the comment section. I do not like to see anyone get hurt, especially this seriously, even if it benefits the Mariners. Escobar sounded awfully discouraged in his quotes:

"I'm concerned, I don't know what's going to happen, I don't even know if I'll be able to pitch again."

"I'm still young. I'll be 32 in two weeks, but retirement is getting into my head, because it's hard to rehab. I want to be out there playing, and I've done everything I can do to be healthy."

"This could be the end of my career. They're not sure if I'd be able to come back after surgery."

I believe that Escobar will attempt to rehab, and is just considering retirement after learning that his 2008 season is all but lost. It's gotta be depressing, and I don't blame him for having doubts. The article mentions Mark Mulder and Bartolo Colon as two other pitchers attempting to rehab from the same injury, and we all know how that's going.

This certainly helps the Mariners as their rotation is now clearly better than the rival Angels'. I wish the best of luck to Escobar, but Seattle better capitalize on this opportunity.

3 More Bullpen Cuts

Three more pitchers were told today that they would not be on the Opening Day roster. Non-roster invitees Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma and Roy Corcoran will not be in Seattle on March 31st, according to Geoff Baker's blog.

The bullpen now looks to include J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, Sean Green, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith and R.A. Dickey, assuming that manager John McLaren goes with the 7-man bullpen after all. This matches my guess from Friday, though there is still one more pitcher left in camp. Cha-Seung Baek is hanging around and appears to be the odd man out. My guess is that he's insurance in case Morrow isn't fully healed and ready to go on Opening Day. Seattle may be inclined to try and carry Baek for a few extra days anyway while they try and work a trade for him.

Speaking of that, don't count on the Ray Durham trade happening now that the Giants have lost infielder Kevin Frandsen to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Arthur Rhodes will continue on his throwing program in an attempt to be ready after the season starts. Chris Reitsma left camp to ponder his future. Earlier in camp he had hinted that this would be the last time he would try and come back from elbow surgery, though he may try and latch on to another big league club.

Replacing Vidro + Roster Notes

On Monday Seattle reassigned OF Wladimir Balentien to minor league camp today, along with LHP Jake Woods and C Rob Johnson, meaning none of the three prospects in the poll will make the club out of Spring Training, which leads us to our latest poll:

Which prospect will find their way onto the 25-man roster first?

Jeff Clement - 19%
Wlad Balentien - 77%
Yung-Chi Chen - 2%

I've gotta say I was a bit surprised by the results. Clement seems to be the bigger name, but I think we're onto something here.

Just to take Chen out of the conversation, his only chance at getting on the 25-man roster this year was to absolutely destroy Jose Lopez this spring and he didn't. I don't know how many starting opportunities he'll get with the Mariners, but it's not a bad guess to say this was his first and last (unless injury strikes).

Between Balentien and Clement, who cracks the 25-man roster first? The first thing you must realize is that neither will be on this roster as a reserve, as both are much too talented for that. Maybe so many of you voted for Wlad because he was making a strong case to become Seattle's fourth outfielder, but Seattle wisely chose to give him playing time in Tacoma over a bench role.

One of these guys should find their way into Seattle's starting lineup before long. As most of you know, DH Jose Vidro received a vesting option for the 2009 season in return for waiving his no-trade clause a year ago. Most fans don't want Vidro back after this season, and the consensus is that Seattle management is thinking the same thing. Vidro's option is rumored to vest at 400 at bats or 450 plate appearances, whichever comes first, so Seattle will want to get Vidro out of the starting lineup with plate appearances to spare so he can pinch hit and backup at second and first base.

Vidro could reach the required plate appearances as soon as the end of June or beginning of July as a starter. Seattle should be looking to reserve at least 200-250 plate appearances for Vidro's bench role, so his starting gig could end in mid-to-late May. That gives Clement and Balentien 40 or more games of extra work before a promotion.

The promotion will likely go to the one who is hitting the best and who would fit better in Seattle's lineup. Though I've done some campaigning for Clement this spring, I am beginning to think Seattle would be smarter to promote Balentien when a spot becomes available. Balentien's struggles with recognizing the breaking ball may put Clement's bat slightly ahead, but Balentien would upgrade the team on both sides of the ball. While adding some of the organization's best raw power to the bottom third of the lineup, Balentien would also do Seattle the favor of bumping Raul Ibanez out of the outfield. While Clement would become the new DH after a promotion, Balentien would likely play right field, moving Brad Wilkerson to left and Ibanez to DH; a move that would undoubtedly save quite a few runs.

Promoting Clement to Seattle DH would also force the organization to make an important decision prematurly. Kenji Johjima, Seattle's current and most dependable catcher since Dan Wilson, is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and Seattle has not yet decided whether they want to bring Joh back or let Clement take over. Promoting Clement would take away months of defensive catching development away from him. Clement's defense has been suspect but improved, and making him the full-time DH would likely rule him out as Seattle's 2008 catcher.

In other news:

The bullpen situation remains a mess. Over the past few days Brandon Morrow's stock may have fallen, Mark Lowe and Arthur Rhodes' appears to have risen a touch, while Reitsma doesn't really seem to be in the race anymore. Ryan Rowland-Smith is still looking great.

Who will join J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Eric O'Flaherty and R.A. Dickey? Prospect Insider has apparently learned that Rhodes is a lock as long as he stays healthy, meaning Rowland-Smith will be optioned back to AAA. I don't like the idea of having Rhodes in the 'pen, as I see manager John McLaren using his "veteran presense" over more talented pitchers they way he did with Chris Reitsma and Rick White last season. I'll go into more detail with this when the final cuts are officially announced.

McLaren has yet to decide on how many pitchers he will carry, meaning there are 1-2 spots to be distributed between Morrow, Lowe, Cha-Seung Baek, Reitsma and Rowland-Smith. Morrow and Lowe are obviously the frontrunners here, but pitcher health is certainly making it difficult to predict how the bullpen may shake down.

As far as the bench goes, Miguel Cairo has been given a spot mainly because of his "veteran presence." This shouldn't have come as a surprise since his contract was of the guaranteed variety. I had been saying that he would be on the bench all spring, though I will admit that I was starting to doubt myself as I listened to everyone passionately make their case against him. Do I want him on the bench? No, but his presence won't make or break this team, though Mike Morse and Greg Norton have to be feeling the pressure a little bit.

Sorry if I've missed anything as I just haven't had the time to keep up. Please share any missing info or your thoughts on Jose Vidro's situation, Wlad versus Clement, the bullpen, Cairo's inclusion or anything else Mariner related in the comment section.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Infield Singles: Bullpen, Sexson, Bench +

  • The bullpen is still a bit of a mess. While all the same names are still being discussed-- J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow, Sean Green, Mark Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith, R.A. Dickey and, to a slightly lesser extent, Cha Seung Baek, Arthur Rhodes and Chris Reitsma-- health concerns keep manager John McLaren from putting a final bullpen together. Reitsma appears to be the farthest along health wise of the three "rehab pitchers," but hasn't been nearly as effective as Lowe or Rhodes. At least there are no serious injuries. Seattle may have to rough it for the first couple of weeks, but should have their best relievers available to them by mid-April.
  • Richie Sexson's shoulder pain has been attributed to bursitis. The team is saying that Richie just slept on his should arm and that it's no big deal, but bursitis can easily turn into one of those nagging injuries that just won't go away. Sexson had the worst year of his career last season due to multiple nagging injuries, so it's very important for Sexson to get healthy and start 2008 off on the right foot. He is currently day to day but playing, though I wish he'd completely shut it down for a few days.
  • More bad news out of Angels camp, setup man Scot Shields suffered a forearm strain and could miss the start of the season, along with fellow pitchers John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Chris Bootcheck. Shields says he'll be ready for the opener, but it's not looking up for him. His awful spring control may be a result of this injury. Whether he's pitching poorly or not pitching at all, it's good news for Seattle.
  • The bench, like the bullpen, is no closer to being finalized as Opening Day approaches. It's becoming more apparent that none of the candidates really offer what Seattle needs. Greg Norton's bat is really heating up, but he is useless on the field, and the same can be said about Mike Morse. Charlton Jimerson would give the bench tremendous speed, but he still has a massive hole in his swing. Jeremy Reed offers decent defense and nothing else. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up.
  • Speaking of the bench, Reed Johnson has just been released from the Toronto Blue Jays and is a much better all around fit for Seattle's bench than the current options. A Johnson acquisition has already been endorsed in several places around the Mariner blogosphere, and I gotta say that I wouldn't mind it either. The only bummer would be to see Morse and Jimerson walk. Neither have much of a future with the team but, as a fan, I really like watching both of them play. Bill Bavasi has a knack for bringing in last minute players, so this could be a realistic possibility.
  • Almost forgot to post this, but John McLaren may have had a slip of the tongue the other day. "Unless there’s something going on with one of these guys - Dickey, the Rule 5 guy, if we’ve got a deal going for one of our guys who’s out of options. That may push us back, but I’d like to be set when we hit that plane. I don’t know that we can do that, but that would be my goal," he was quoted yesterday. It seems apparent that Seattle is trying to work a deal for either Cha Seung Baek, Mike Morse and/or Charlton Jimerson. We already mentioned the rumored Baek-for-Durham trade the other day. Mike Morse's strong spring may have upped his value as well, so he might bring something worthwhile in.

Sources: Stuff and Story, Bullpen picture still murky, Shields' arm now a concern for Angels, Shields out, Sexson has bursitis, Fourth Outfielder, Nothing's certain yet...... the morning update, March 22

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bullpen Shaping Up + No Bonds, Beltre's Thumb

First of all, I'd like to start with an omission. I hadn't been keeping up on my M's reading as much as I usually do, but a couple more roster cuts trickled in on Wednesday night and I failed to catch them. LHP Philip Barzilla and 3B Matt Tuiasosopo were both reassigned to minor league camp. Barzilla wasn't much of a surprise despite throwing three scoreless innings in his two appearances this spring. Tuiasosopo never had any shot of making the club; the only reason he was hanging around was to help fill the remaining split-squad lineups.

The bullpen is practically set. While we still don't know for certain whether or not manager John McLaren will opt for a 6-man or 7-man 'pen, it's looking more and more like he'll go small.

J.J. Putz will be the closer. Sean Green will undoubtedly float between middle relief and setup duties. Eric O'Flaherty beat out Cesar Jimenez and has won the left-handed specialist job. Brandon Morrow is a lock as well, but his health has been in question. Though there had been some talk of Morrow opening the season in extended Spring Training or on the disabled list, he has been throwing and is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day.

The fifth spot will go to one of Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma or Mark Lowe, according to manager John McLaren. Reitsma hasn't been sharp at all, so you can count him out. Rhodes thinks he'll be ready for Opening Day, which puts him over a month ahead of his rehabilitation schedule. That alone makes me a little nervous, but he hasn't had the best stuff and I'm not convinced he'll earn a spot. Lowe is probably putting together the best spring. He has been effective while throwing his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s to go along with good secondary pitches. He is the clear favorite of the three.

Cha Seung Baek is not going to make this team should everything go as planned. He has been fantastic this spring, allowing a single run and just one walk over his 11 innings of work. While R.A Dickey hasn't been quite as good, he is much more durable than Baek and is the reason Seattle can go with the 6-man bullpen should they choose to. Dickey continues to pitch phenomenally in his own right, posting a 1.50 ERA through his first 12 Cactus League innings. Baek has been brought up in recent trade talks, but unless a deal gets done quickly he'll likely be heading to the free agent ranks.

Putz, Morrow, Green, O'Flaherty, Lowe and Dickey; could that be McLaren's 6-man bullpen? O'Flaherty is the only lefty of this group. Is that a problem? I'm not sure. If you had a 7- or 8-man 'pen you would certainly carry multiple lefties, but is it necessary in a 6-man? Australian lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith has certainly earned a spot in the 'pen, pitching 11 scoreless innings so far this spring. He is the most likely candidate to fill a temporary spot should Morrow or Reitsma/Lowe/Rhodes need more time to get healthy, but is there a permanent spot for him? If McLaren goes with the 7-man 'pen, I say yes. McLaren stated earlier this spring that he was looking for relievers that could go more than a single inning, and RRS certainly fits the bill after pitching some long relief last year and starting in Winter Ball this offseason. It will be interesting to see which route the team goes. The bench situation has been a little murky after a series of defensive blunders by Mike Morse, so the decision to go with 11 or 12 pitchers will go right down to the wire.

Other tidbits:

*Seattle will not go after home run king Barry Bonds under any circumstances. "No, absolutely not," said Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln when asked about a possible Bonds acquisition. "No. No. No."

I've gotta say, it's about time this came out. I was getting so sick of hearing about Seattle being the best fit for Bonds, and hopefully these quotes will finally dismiss the idea. Yeah, he's still good. Yeah, he'd help the team. But, more importantly, he could realistically be absent for extended periods of time for court appearances and would be a team chemistry killer. Thank you, Mr. Howard Lincoln, for finally putting this to rest.

*Adrian Beltre's injured thumb is not fully healed. In fact, the severe sprain he suffered on June 1st of last season ended up being a torn ligament, a very painful injury for Beltre to deal with day in and day out. He will, as always, play through the pain. The injury effects him more on defense than on offense, and he did win the Gold Glove last season. Don't be too worried about Adrian, but it is unfortunate that he couldn't come into Spring Training at 100%.

Sources: Looking at the No. 2 hole (again), Sights and Sounds: Morrow's bullpen session, Mariners not interested in Bonds, Adrian's Thumb, Morrow, Rhodes say they'll be ready for March 31 opener, Spring Scouting Report, Is there room for Rowland-Smith in the bullpen?, Thursday into Friday not a good time for McLaren, 5-man Bench, 6-man Bullpen?, Morse not on team yet

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Latest Roster Cuts Shape Bullpen

Seattle continued to slim down the big league roster last night, optioning four players to AAA Tacoma. Catching prospect Jeff Clement, LOOGY hopeful Cesar Jimenez, rehabilitating middle reliever Jon Huber and reliever Sean White.

The least surprising of the cuts was White. He had planned on competing for a starting or long relief spot before the Erik Bedard trade, but didn't have much of an opportunity once camp rolled around.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the bullpen I figured Huber and Jimenez would come right down to the wire. Huber had just three appearances, two decent and one disastrous. Jimenez only had one bad outing when he gave up three runs on three hits and two walks back on March 8th. Between his other four outings he surrendered just two hits and no walks. This cut effectively locks Eric O'Flaherty into the left-handed specialist role.

These three cuts leave 13 pitchers left competing for the six or seven bullpen spots: J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Sean Green, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes, Roy Corcoran, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Philip Barzilla (?), Jake Woods, R.A. Dickey and Cha Seung Baek.

Of these remaining guys, I think the Opening Day bullpen will contain Putz, Morrow, Lowe, O'Flaherty, Green and Dickey. I think Morrow's sore shoulder has been overblown, and he should be ready for the start of the season. There has been some talk that he may start the year on the disabled list or in extended Spring Training, but he has started throwing again and all reports have been good ones. If he isn't ready, I would expect Rhodes, Rowland-Smith or Reitsma to temporarily take his roster spot.

Clement was the only position player cut. He was given an outside shot at the DH role, but didn't show much this spring, hitting just .158 in 19 at bats.

Jose Vidro is once again Seattle's full-time DH, but for how long? Seattle won't want Vidro back in 2009, so they have to have his vesting option in mind. While there is no official report of when Vidro's option vests, the most common rumor has it at 400 at bats or 450 plate appearances, whichever comes first. Seattle will likely look to AAA, promoting either Clement or Wladimir Balentien. Clement would take over at DH, while Balentien would nab an outfield spot, bumping Raul Ibanez to DH. Either way, Seattle keeps Vidro from coming back next season and adds some good young pop to the lineup at the same time. For more on this topic, keep an eye out for the next "Poll Results" post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Possible Baek for Durham; Roster Shakedown

posted by Jon

I'm pretty busy today, but I'll pass on some interesting things coming about :

Jason A. Churchill of Prospect Insider posted down in the comments section on his site, "The fact that the only trade the M’s are considering right now is Baek for Ray Durham and cash is what we should be happy about."

I know some of you aren't Churchill fans, but most of his insights prove to be correct, or at least close. Keep in mind that nothing is imminent and the trade could be in any stage.

I am all for this swap. Cha Seung Baek is a spare part whose trade value has increased exponentially this spring, while Ray Durham has been a very productive second baseman for a long time (discounting last season). Durham is in the last year of his contract, so he would be a one year stopgap to a free agent market that holds two interesting names in particular.

There is no reason to be surprised if this trade goes through, as it's not the first time Durham's name has been brought up. Remember the proposed Durham for Richie Sexson salary dump? This seems like a much better deal.

How do you all feel about a Ray Durham acquisition? (And please no "Mike Morse at second base" suggestions. It doesn't work. Morse is 6'6" and will never possess the footwork to play that position.)

Next up, Seattle's roster shakedown. Ken Rosenthal says that Seattle is considering carrying just 11 pitchers and both Mike Morse and Charlton Jimerson on the bench. He also mentions that Jeremy Reed has drawn interest from the San Diego Padres.

I would be okay with Seattle carrying Morse and Jimerson. While Morse has earned a spot, Jimerson is out of options and Seattle wants to save him. If he struggles he can be released and someone else can fill the spot, simple as that. Jimerson gives us another good baserunner to compliment Bloomquist. If these two both end up on the Opening Day roster, I see two possible benches:

Jaime Burke, C
Willie Bloomquist, INF/OF
Mike Morse, CIF/COF
Charlton Jimerson, OF

with either Miguel Cairo (INF/LF) or Greg Norton (1B/PH).

As far as Reed goes, I see no reason to trade him. He has two options left, so the only reason Bavasi would trade him would be to give him a major league job. Bavasi is known to make these deals, the latest when he traded Ben Broussard to the Rangers earlier this offseason.

(Hat tip to Rob T. for passing along all this info; made today's post easy.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

2B Upgrade Needed

posted by Jon

All offseason we heard GM Bill Bavasi talk about the need for more production out of the second base position. We heard rumors of several different free agents possibly signing, and even a few trade rumors for some veteran guys. Incumbent second baseman Jose Lopez isn't getting it done this spring, hitting an even .200 through Monday. Newly acquired utility men Miguel Cairo and Tug Hulett don't have the skills to be MLB starters, and prospect Yung-Chi Chen has already been cut from the team.

Jason A. Churchill of Prospect Insider recently had this to say about Lopez:

Lopez is a complete mess at the plate. Several scouts described him as “lost” or "without any confidence he can hit the ball hard at all” after seeing him this spring.

He’s still chasing pitches out of the zone early in the count and is unable to punish the fastball. Presently, Lopez is not showing that he deserves regular at-bats in Triple-A, let alone a solid big-league baseball club.

He pulls off breaking balls about half the time, and the other half he’s reaching out for them with a weak waive. Until he can offer more effective plate coverage — going to right field with a line drive regularly — he’s probably going to be limited to being a .260 hitter with moderate power at best.

If pitchers stay away from Lopez and make him reach, he’s an easy out waiting to happen. He must develop better discipline, and if he wants to keep his job as the starting second baseman, he’ll need to show something early in the year.

So what's going to happen? Lopez could still very well be Seattle's Opening Day second baseman, especially since manager John McLaren is somehow impressed, but unless he regains his early 2006 form he won't be sticking around very long. What is plan-B?

I'd be calling about former Cleveland Indians All-Star second baseman Ronnie Belliard if I were the man in charge. Now with the Nationals, Belliard's name has been brought up in various trade rumors in recent weeks due to Washington's logjam at second. The 31-year-old is in competition with Felipe Lopez, Bret Boone and Willie Harris for the second base job, leading the way with a .471 batting average so far this spring. About a week ago Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote that Belliard would be the easiest of the four to move.

Belliard will be entering his tenth full season in the major leagues this year, and is still getting it done with the stick. If a Mariner, he would strike out slightly less and walk slightly more than Jose Lopez, getting more rallies to the top of the order while likely hitting .285 or better. He's got about the same or better power than Lopez, smacking 11 homers and driving 35 doubles last year while playing his home games in the pitcher's haven known as RFK Stadium. His salary is less than $2M per year through 2009. If Seattle wishes to tap a 2009 free agent market that features names like Mark Ellis and Orlando Hudson, Belliard could become a useful utility man or trade bait entering the final year of his contract.

How would you guys like to see Belliard in a Mariner uniform? Anyone else you'd rather see Seattle bring in? Ryan Freel is also supposedly available.

BBT Fantasy Draft Reminder

For those who are playing in our fantasy baseball league, the draft is tomorrow, March 18th, at 7:30 Pacific Standard Time. Please be there!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bullpen Update

Seattle's spring roster is now 13 players lighter after Wednesday and Thursday's cuts, making this a good time to reaccess some position battles (all stats current as of 3/16 and for Cactus League games only).

Bullpen: Five pitchers; Horacio Ramirez, Joe Woerman, Phillipe Aumont, Brodie Downs and Stephen Kahn; have been dismissed from big league camp as Seattle begins to tighten things up. Of these five, Ramirez and Downs were the only ones with any chance of making the club, in my mind, so those two cuts are the only one that really effect the way the 'pen will take shape.

Ramirez is now searching for a new team, making the long reliever battle a two-man race. R.A. Dickey and Cha Seung Baek have both been impressive thus far, and both pitched in Wednesday's ballgame. Baek pitched one scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one, lowering his spring ERA to 1.29. Dickey followed with two innings of work, giving up one run on two hits. His ERA sits at 2.00 after giving up an RBI double to Ray Durham.

This one can still go either way, and will go down to the wire since the loser will likely be pitching for another organization. Could the fact that Baek pitched just one inning today hint that Seattle may be testing him as a middle reliever? I doubt it and I don't endorse the idea, but Seattle could be forced into that if the rest of the bullpen doesn't shape up the way they want it to.

The rest of the bullpen is up in the air at this point, and a lot will be determined by the health of the four reclamation projects. Mark Lowe, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes and Jon Huber all have the talent to be on the Opening Day bullpen, but it is unclear when they'll be ready. All have shown some good stuff at times.

"Oh, I'm ready to go right now," Rhodes told reporters after his latest appearance. "By the end of spring training, I want to be on this team."

It's still too early to tell what will happen. I think we'll have a better idea of what might happen after their next appearances in a couple days. All have looked pretty good so far.

As far as the rest of the bullpen goes:

Ryan Rowland-Smith has yet to give up a run in 8.2 innings, but his five walks are a little disconcerting. The consensus on RRS is that he'll start the year in AAA as a starter, but if he continues to put up zeros and finds his control the team will have no choice but to consider carrying him as a middle or long reliever. If injuries temporarily limit Seattle's bullpen depth, there is no reason not to carry RRS for the first month or so.

Brandon Morrow has already been dubbed one of Seattle's late-innings guys, so it'll take a disastrous spring to land him in the minor leagues. He has been pretty decent so far, with the exception of his last appearance. If you take away his hellish outing against the White Sox on March 10th (0 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 4 ER), he has an ERA of 2.25 over 4 innings of work. That bad outing can be attributed to a sore shoulder Morrow has been pitching with lately; a full recovery is expected.

Eric O'Flaherty has been great: 4.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 4 K, 0 BB. He should be the frontrunner for the left-handed specialist opening, but could get setup consideration depending on bullpen health and depth.

Sean Green had been okay, sporting a 2.70 ERA over his first 3.1 innings, though the WHIP wasn't looking so great. Green pitched horribly in his last outing, allowing 6 runs in a third of an inning, skyrocketing his ERA to 17.18. We'll see how he rebounds, but I expect him to be on the Opening Day roster considering the stability he brought to the club last season.

Cesar Jimenez has been fantastic so far this spring, a single bad outing inflating his ERA to 6.75. In his other three outings he's given up just one hit and no walks. Jimenez is trying to make the team as a left-handed specialist or middle reliever. I would prefer to see O'Flaherty as the team's LOOGY, but McLaren seems to like what he sees in Jimenez. Jeff from Lookout Landing does a great job in this post discussing why O'Flaherty is the better option.

Philip Barzilla is putting up some very nice numbers. The non-roster invitee has yet to give up a run in three innings of work. His 5:0 K:BB ratio is what will get him noticed. We'll see if he can keep it up. He'll likely be competing for a middle relief role.

If none of the aforementioned "reclamation projects" can go on Opening Day, Seattle may have to go with a bullpen like this:

Long: R.A. Dickey, R
Mid: Cesar Jimenez, L
Mid: Cha Seung Baek, R*
LOOGY: Eric O'Flaherty, L
Setup: Brandon Morrow, R
Setup: Sean Green, R
Closer: J.J. Putz, R

*Baek's inclusion would depend on how many pitchers Seattle decides to carry. I think Seattle could get away with having just six pitchers in this 'pen, as Dickey, Jimenez, Morrow and Green are all capable of pitching more than one inning. I doubt that Seattle will have to go with this bullpen, as at least one or two of Lowe, Huber, Reitsma and Rhodes should be available.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fallen Angels

Most would agree that the Angels had a slight edge over the Mariners coming into Spring Training, but that didn't mean that they had the AL West locked up. The Angels' Achilles heal is their age and durability, and most of us figured the injury bug would get them at some point this year.

We didn't even have to wait until the regular season.

Angels ace John Lackey will miss the first month or more of the season, including his start against Seattle on March 11th. Lackey won 19 games last year, including 4 against the Mariners. Lackey held a 0.58 ERA in 31 innings against Seattle last season.

Kelvim Escobar, the Angels' second best starter, probably won't even be on a throwing program by the time Seattle plays L.A. for the first time. He'll likely be out until mid-to-late May, missing two starts against the Mariners.

Reliever Chris Bootcheck has an injured oblique and could miss the first couple weeks of the season.

Vladimir Guerrero is still struggling with elbow tendinitis that forced him to DH towards the end of last season.

Gary Matthews is also having trouble completely recovering from knee tendinitis he was suffering from during the 2007 post season.

Lackey and Escobar are obviously the ones to focus on. Without their top two starters, the Angels are looking at a rotation that includes five of these six starting candidates:

Jon Garland (10-13, 4.23 ERA with White Sox)
Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.91 in 28 starts)
Joe Saunders (5.11 ERA in 14 AAA starts, 4.44 ERA in 18 MLB starts)
Ervin Santana (5.76 ERA in 150 innings)
Dustin Mosely (4.40 ERA in 92 innings, mostly relief)
Nick Adenhart (3.65 ERA in 163 innings for AA)

The Angels had a great rotation when Saunders and Santana were duking it out for the fifth spot, but now they'll serve as the team's 3rd and 4th starters. The 3-4-5 starters should get at least 6-8 starts a piece in Lackey and Escobar's absence. The Halos will be facing off against the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers; plus two three-game series against Seattle in the month of April.

Besides the six games against the Angels and two games versus Cleveland, Seattle won't be facing any contenders within the first month, with the Rays being their stiffest competition. If Seattle can jump out to an early division lead, they could become the team to beat as Los Angeles plays catchup.
We needed some help to win the division, hopefully we can capitalize.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

12 More Roster Cuts

Horacio Ramirez was the first to leave after being released yesterday. Seattle continued to slim down their roster today, announcing 12 more cuts.

(All stats for Cactus League games only. Anyone know where to find stats for the MiLB games?)

Optioned to AAA:
RHP Joe Woerman (1 G, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K)
2B Yung Chi Chen (10 AB, single, HR, 3 BB, 3 K)
1B Brian LaHair (20 AB, 5 singles, 3 doubles, 2 BB, 3 K, SB)

Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp:
RHP Phillipe Aumont (1 G, 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, BB, 0 K)
RHP Brodie Downs (2 G, IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, K)
RHP Stephen Kahn (1 G, IP, 3 H, 3 ER, BB, 0 K)
C Jair Fernandez (no MLB appearances)
C Adam Moore (2 AB, double, BB)
C Brant Ust (4 AB, single)
OF Bronson Sardinha (16 AB, 4 singles, BB, 4 K)
INF Mark Kiger (13 AB, 2 singles, 2 doubles, BB, 4 K)

None of these cuts are very surprising, though I thought Chen would get a longer look. Seattle is obviously content with Jose Lopez as their second baseman. Tug Hulett is still around, but he's not going to be stealing anyone's job.

Now that there are three fewer catchers in camp, Jeff Clement should get some more playing time. I'm really hoping he'll give Jose Vidro a run for his money.

Brian LaHair certainly impressed, hitting .400. No spot for him this season, maybe he'll make the team as part of a platoon next spring. He should get his first callup this year.

Of the players still in camp, there are only 8 non-roster players left:

LHP Philip Barzilla
RHP Roy Corcoran
RHP Chris Reitsma
LHP Arthur Rhodes
LHP Jake Woods
2B Tug Hulett
1B Greg Norton
3B Matt Tuiasosopo


posted by Dustin

Ichiro has a tendency to start off the season fairly slow, and Spring Training is really not much different this year. - Over his career, Ichiro has hit .299 in March and April combined, by far his worst month(s) of baseball.

This Spring Training, Ichiro is hitting a disastrous 0-21 (at time of publication). In other words, he's hitting .000.

This must be new for Ichiro, a man who has won 2 batting titles with the Mariners, and finished in the top 5 another 2 times. He has led baseball in hits 4 out of 7 years, and in the other 3 years, he finished in 2nd. He isn't really a player who is used to 0-21 streaks. He always seems to hit his way out of the slumps. Yet, it seems that this Spring Training campaign, there hasn't been a resurrection. Is there cause for concern? - My answer, NO.

While Ichiro hits only .299 in March/April, his career average in May skyrockets to an insane average of .370. We're not into April or May yet, but this trend shows that Ichiro will bounce back. Ichiro, as before stated, also has this uncanny ability to swing his way out of slumps. I really don't think that Ichiro is fazed by this at all.

"To tell you the truth, some of this is kind of fun... To be in a situation this early in Spring Training and have this kind of a bit of intense environment is something that I couldn't experience before. Basically, it's a situation where I need to battle within myself, mentally."

McLaren isn't fazed either it seems."He's fine. Put him down for the batting title. Put my name with it, please."

Even though it is said as a joke, McLaren shows that he has full confidence in his star to pull through this slump, and turn into the typical we all love and enjoy watching.I'm not worried one bit. Ichiro isn't worried. McLaren isn't worried. ESPN seems to be, since they have a running tab every day, but that really doesn't matter to me. Thoughts? Does his spring training slump show anything, or should it worry us?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Big Day for Rehabilitating Hurlers

Mark Lowe, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes and Jon Huber are all scheduled to pitch in today's ballgame against the Milwaukee Brewers. As you are all well aware, these four are all coming back from tough injuries and surgeries and figure to be competing for roster spots until the end of Spring Training.

So far Lowe and Reitsma have pitched one scoreless inning a piece, Huber has yet to give up a hit in his 1.2 innings, and Rhodes has yet to pitch in a game this spring.

There have been a lot of different rumors regarding the bullpen outcome this spring, but we won't know for sure until the final roster cuts are made. I'd love to see these guys continue to build strength and pitch successfully because it will boost the level of competition among relievers even if they start the season on the DL or in AAA.

I'm routing for all of these guys. I hope at least one of them is healthy and effective enough to make the club out of Spring Training, and that one or two more can help after a month or two.

I'll go ahead and update this in a few hours with their results.

UPDATE - 11:08 pm PST: Whoa! Almost forgot about the update, thanks for the reminder in the comments! I was super busy today so I wasn't able to watch or listen to the game today, so the boxscore is all I have to go by. Rhodes fared the best, pitching a hitless, scoreless inning and inducing a couple grounders. Lowe was also perfect, getting his outs on two flyballs and one grounder. Reitsma gave up a run on two hits, which goes well with previous information. Some scouting reports are saying that Reitsma isn't hitting his spots as well as the other guys. Huber didn't get into the game after all.

Looking good either way! The more of these guys that are ready for Opening Day the better roster we'll end up with. Pitching depth is always key.

HoRam Released

The Seattle Mariners cut ties with Horacio Ramirez, the return for stud reliever Rafael Soriano last offseason. There isn't much to say about him that hasn't been said in the last 15 months, so I'll just keep it short.

Ramirez had the worst ERA in the entire MLB last year and spent two months on the DL. The bad certainly outweighed the good, but a quick thank you to HoRam for the starts you made on April 27th, May 13th and July 16th. As for the other 17 starts...

Take it easy, Horacio. I hear there are some great opportunities in the Independent Leagues.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

5-man Bench, 6-man Bullpen?

Throughout Spring Training I have been under the assumption that the 2008 Seattle Mariners would break camp with a four-man bench and a seven-man bullpen, as they did last year, but lately there have been some ideas floating around that would suggest a five-man bench, six-man bullpen.

The number of bench players Seattle carries will be determined by how durable the bullpen is.

"We're going to see, No. 1, the health of everybody, who shakes down in the bullpen, how many innings are out there," McLaren was quoted as saying here. "Last year, we were faced with the dilemma of a lot of one inning type pitchers. That kind of plays into it a little bit. Depending on how the bullpen shakes down, if we've got innings out there, do we need 12 on our staff? Do we need the extra guy in the bullpen? It's something we're very open-minded about. We'll just see how everybody fits in the bullpen also. One might have a bearing on the other and vice versa."

Last season the Seattle Mariners opened with a bullpen that consisted of seven guys: J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow, Julio Mateo, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes, George Sherrill and Sean White. Of those seven, at least five of them would be considered "one inning type pitchers."

This year, Seattle could have a little more room to work with, though it's difficult to tell at this point since the competition for bullpen spots is going to go right down to the wire. Last year Brandon Morrow was certainly one of the "one-inning type pitchers" McLaren was referring to, as he only logged more than a single inning in 30% of his appearances. This year, McLaren has called him a "two inning guy." Sean Green wasn't on the Mariners' Opening Day roster last season, but he did make it into 64 ballgames, pitching over an inning in 37.5% of his games, a number that would have been much higher had he avoided a rough stretch that lasted most of August.

The rehabilitation projects are the ones that could really hurt the 2008 bullpen in terms of innings. Mark Lowe, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes and Jon Huber are all working their way back from serious injury, and would rarely face more than a handful of hitters. Guys like Cesar Jimenez and Ryan Rowland-Smith would add innings, on the other hand.

The decision to go with a six-man bullpen or a seven-man bullpen could be determined by who is named the team's long reliever. While many players are competing for this spot, the competition focuses around three guys: Horacio Ramirez, R.A. Dickey and Cha Seung Baek.

Dickey is the most durable of the trio, as his hard knuckleball takes little toll on his arm and he could log multiple innings on back-to-back days if need be. "I like the 7-man bullpen, too," a scout told Jason A. Churchill in Prospect Insider's latest post, "but Dickey is a good reason to consider going away from it."

Ramirez is on the other end of the spectrum. He's been injury prone throughout his career, so his inclusion in the bullpen would likely require an extra arm.

Should Seattle put together a bullpen capable of allowing an extra position player on the 25-man roster, who makes it?

Willie Bloomquist and Jaime Burke are locks. Many writers around the blogosphere are calling for (and expecting) Miguel Cairo to be cut, but I still don't see it happening. While I agree that Cairo has no place on this team, every indication from countless Spring Training articles I've read show that Cairo is as much of a lock as Bloomquist and Burke, or at least close, especially if the bench is expanded to five.

Right now it's impossible to exclude Mike Morse from the bench, so we'll assume he's on. There is still time in Spring Training for things to change, but for now we'll pencil him in, leaving one spot up for grabs.

Of the four bench players already included, three of them play first base, two of them play second base, three of them play third base, three of them play shortstop, three of them play left field, one of them plays center field, two of them play right field, none of them hit for power and they are all right-handed hitters. Based on their abilities, Seattle could use a little offensive pop and center field depth, leaving Greg Norton, Jeremy Reed and Charlton Jimerson as the top candidates to fill the void, in my opinion.

Norton would be on the team strictly as a pinch hitter since Bloomquist, Cairo and Morse are probably just as good if not better in the field at all of Norton's positions. He is a switch-hitter with some good pop from the left side and a knack for getting pinch hits. Adding him to the 40-man roster shouldn't be a problem, since there are three fringe players who are out of minor league options and one rule-5 pick, meaning someone will undoubtedly make room for him.

While having a switch hitter is nice, I don't personally like having a designated pinch hitter on the roster. Norton is considered one of the better pinch hitters in baseball with 66 pinch hits in 306 at bats throughout his career (.243 batting average), but how is that any better than keeping your .267 hitter in the game? At least the starter loose and has seen live pitching that day, rather than coming off the bench cold. Norton has some power, which is also attractive, but is a shot at one or two pinch hit homers worth giving him a roster spot? If those home runs equal one or two extra wins, probably, but unfortunately pinch hit opportunities don't always come with the game on the line. He would make sense in some matchups, but I would rather go with another option.

Charlton Jimerson and Jeremy Reed are the other two candidates for this final spot. They both play good defense at all three outfield positions and would add some speed to the bench. Jimerson would add some great raw power, but has a tendency to strikeout. Jeremy Reed is left-handed, which may be a mark against him with an all-lefty starting outfield, even on a five-man bench. So far Reed has outperformed Jimerson this spring, but neither has done anything to fall out of the race. If it comes down to these two, Jimerson may have a leg up since he is out of minor league options and Reed isn't.

I am not considering Wlad Balentien for a bench spot, since he really needs the playing time and he'd likely be reduced to pinch hitting duties on a bigger bench.

All that said, I don't think that a five-man bench is necessary. Bloomquist, Burke, Cairo and Morse can easily handle all eight positions, so adding anyone else would just make it harder for everyone to find playing time. I am a little concerned about having Bloomquist as the only backup for center fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Brad Wilkerson can play some center field, supposedly, but the gaps would widen significantly if Seattle ever played an outfield consisting of Raul Ibanez, Wilkerson and Morse. The idea of adding Jimerson or Reed is intriguing for this reason, and this reason alone.

How do you all vote? 5-man bench/6-man bullpen, or 4-man bench/7-man bullpen?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Position Battle Updates: 3/10

A few more games have been played and it's time for an update on which players are distancing themselves from the pack in their respective position battles.

Long Relief - On Saturday I wrote that R.A. Dickey was the frontrunner for the long relief spot in the bullpen. Yesterday USS Mariner called his inclusion on the 25-man roster a "done deal," and Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider also gave a convincing argument. I have to say I'm starting to like Dickey more and more, which is saying a lot considering I never really wanted him on the team. I'm still concerned about having the knuckler coming out of the bullpen, but he is certainly looking better than some of the competition. Through Monday he's got a 1.29 ERA in 7 innings pitched, giving up just 4 hits along the way.

Horacio Ramirez couldn't find the strikezone in yesterday's ballgame, raising his Spring Training ERA to 5.40 after giving up 2 hits and 3 walks in his 3 innings of work. He only has pitched 5 innings so far, which is a very small sample size, but it looks awfully bad when the other guys are pitching so well. Dickey's ERA remains at 1.80 (5 innings) and Cha Seung Baek had a good Sunday outing to lower his to 1.50 (6 innings).

Ramirez is going to have to be sharp in order to keep this a three man race. Meanwhile, I'm slowly getting on the R.A. Dickey bandwagon.

Bench - In the aforementioned Prospect Insider post, Churchill thinks Seattle could go with a five man bench and he seems to think that Miguel Cairo will not be part of it. We all know that Miguel Cairo offers very little, but the team gave him a guaranteed contract and seem to like his versatility. He was off to a good start this spring, but seems to be fading. Unless he completely tanks I don't see Seattle dropping him. I may address the five man bench/six man bullpen possibility that Churchill wrote about within the next couple of days.

Mike Morse continues to tear the cover off the ball. He hit his second homer of the spring yesterday, an opposite field shot off of Arizona ace Brandon Webb. His spring average now sits at .500 in 24 at bats. There is no reason for him to not make the bench if he keeps this up.

Jeremy Reed is also making a nice impression, but he's got options left and manager John McLaren is on record as saying that he wants a right handed outfielder on his bench. Reed is currently hitting .462.

Wladimir Balentien continues to impress on offense. He went 4-for-5 today with a pair of doubles, raising his spring average to .357. There have been some questions about his defense, and Brad Wilkerson is also hitting .357, so the platoon possibility isn't likely right out of the gate.

Norton will probably need to show a little more to make the club. He's hitting .227 at the moment, and he may need Seattle to have a five man bench in order to make the team at this point.

Designated Hitter - Jose Vidro is the incumbent and likely choice for the DH spot, but there has been some thoughts that Jeff Clement could steal the job with a solid spring. Not a lot to report here: Jose Vidro is coming off a sore elbow and had a couple of knocks in today's ballgame. He currently has 4 singles in 15 at bats (.267). Clement has just 12 at bats so far, knocking 2 doubles and a single. You have to go with Vidro at this point, but we'll see how it works itself out as Spring Training continues. I get the feeling the coaches are focusing on his defense right now.

Second Base - This is another position where there wasn't a real battle, but there were rumblings during the offseason that prospect Yung Chi Chen could challenge Jose Lopez. Neither have done anything very impressive, as both are hitting just .222.

Bullpen - Rather than talk about who is impressing, it would be much easier to predict the first cuts from camp. Phillipe Aumont, Brodie Downs, Rob Rohrbaugh, Stephen Kahn and Roy Corcoran haven't shown much in their limited playing time, but none of them were really expected to make the 2008 team anyway. This thing is going to come down to the wire, so the updates will be more detailed later on.

To be honest, I skimped a little bit on this post. Anything you guys wanna add?