Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Seattle Mariners. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
Junior is back in Seattle for a nostalgic run that doesn’t make a ton of sense to those inside baseball circles. Sometimes, you have to give back to the fans. For that, we tip our cap to the Mariners. We also tip our cap to Junior. He’s really never going to win that World Series that he probably deserves. He’s never even going to play in one. But like when Micheal Jordan came back and nearly took the Wizards to the playoffs at the very end of his career, Griffey has a chance to be the tutor to many a young Mariner and be remembered like a legend in Seattle one more time. This team making the playoffs in any of the next couple years would be similar to a World Series run for many other franchises, because of the unlikelihood of that event occurring.
These guys aren’t going to be all that bad. The AL west is nothing special and is as open for the taking as it’s been in perhaps the last decade. The Mariners must just get strong starting pitching and their youngsters need to grow up fast. They have some pieces in place that could make this an exciting season.
The first of that is King Felix Hernandez, the ace of the pitching staff. One of these years this guy is going to come out and win a Cy Young before anyone predicts it. His stuff is just that good. Look for him to have his best season yet and post an ERA under 3.00, you heard it here first.
Erik Bedard’s return to help as the #2 starter will go a long ways for this team as well. In reality the Mariners thought the lefty would serve as a second ace, but Bedard only was the pitcher of record in 10 games last season. If Bedard can return to form and just make all of his starts it will be a tremendous shot in the arm for this young club. From there, Jarrod Washburn (on his last legs), Carlos Silva, and Brandon Morrow will fill out the rotation.
The lineup is not intimidating. You can shut this team down. Their ballpark is spacious and doesn’t allow a lot of home runs. Ichiro Suzuki will continue doing what Hall of Famers in the making do; he is a known commodity. From there, Yunkiesky Betancourt and Adrian Beltre are solid righthanded bats. Russell Branyan and Griffey should hit in the 4th and 5th spots. Griffey will be the DH around half the time and play some left field other nights.
Jose Lopez is a nice little offensive player as the second baseman. He could be hitting near the top of the order by season’s end. Kenji Johjima, Franklin Gutierrez, and Endy Chavez will round out the bottom of the order. Jeff Clement will see significant time as a reserve.
The closer spot is up in the air. The Mariners traded J.J. Putz (15 saves) to the New York Mets and have no clear solution providing Morrow (10 saves last season) makes the rotation.
Candidates include Mark Lowe, who pitched strong the final month of last season after a rough start, and Roy Corcoran, who had three saves and a 3.22 ERA last year. Newly acquired Tyler Walker has 34 career saves in seven big league seasons. Look for Lowe to get his shot.
This team isn’t going to be world beaters. An 80 win season would be monumental, but fans should enjoy the reality that is Ichiro and Griffey; two Seattle legends, in the same lineup for as many nights as they can. Any baseball fan should appreciate that.