By Shannon Drayer
Tuesday night's 7-2 loss was frustrating. Not because the youngster, Brandon Maurer, went out and came dangerously close to a repeat of his second big-league start in which he failed to get out of the first inning, but because I got that old and unwelcome feeling that a four-run deficit in the first inning was insurmountable. It shouldn't be, but this club is not clicking on all cylinders, and unlike last year, I think help is available on some fronts.
The page on the calendar has flipped. We are now one month into the season. While the "it's early" card has not been played much this year, in my mind it is no longer early. For some it may still be somewhat early but on a team that is made up mostly of young players who were given a full year look the previous season and guys with very established track records, I think at this point you should have a good idea of where this team is at and whether or not you can expect improvement from individual players.
In other words, I don't think it's too early to make moves.
Help is needed on the bench, which is not the strength I think a lot of us figured it would be coming out of spring training. Help is needed in the pen. Then there is the question of what's best for the development of some of the younger players on the roster.
A move I would make right away would be to get a true long-relief/swingman in the pen. Blake Beavan did not exactly put out the fire, coming in for Maurer Tuesday night and extending the Mariners' deficit from four runs to seven. More importantly, he is not finding answers in the pen. He is nearly moving in the wrong direction. His ERA is now at 8.27. His tempo is off, his delivery inconsistent and for some reason Tuesday night he wouldn't throw his four-seamer. If the Mariners want to see him start again at some point he needs to be starting now. In Tacoma.
Shortstops Robert Andino and Brendan Ryan are hitting a combined .169 through the first month of the season. (AP)
I will take my chances on losing a Double-A outfielder or any minor-league infielder on the 40-man not named Carlos Triunfel with Nick Franklin and Brad Miller on the horizon. Perhaps Erasmo Ramirez can be put on the 60-day disabled list. I would find a way to get Beavan down and get someone, perhaps Brian Sweeney, up. He has got plenty of experience, can easily pitch the swing role and can handle not pitching for longer periods of time. Easy fix there.
A tougher fix is what to do at shortstop. The combination of Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino obviously is not getting it done offensively. Franklin is absolutely tearing it up, hitting .410 at Triple-A right now. Is it too soon to call him up after a rough first season in Tacoma and just 17 games this year? That's for the Mariners to decide. I trust them in knowing where he is in his development beyond the numbers, but if they do not believe he is ready then I have to believe that it wouldn't hurt to take a look at Triunfel.
What about first base? A bunch of you were calling for Justin Smoak to be sent down in the comment section of my last post. I am going to guess that you are overlooking the fact that he has hit .357/.454/.571/1.025 in his last eight games. Small sample size, but clearly progress.
Not progressing much would be Jesus Montero and this is a situation I don't quite understand. Coming into the season we knew that in order to get at-bats he would have to catch because Kendrys Morales was going to be the primary DH. Montero struggled early and Eric Wedge said that Kelly Shoppach would get more time behind the plate.
In my mind, if Montero isn't getting consistent at-bats he shouldn't be here. Whether he is your future catcher, future DH or future currency in the form of trade, he needs to be playing. He has played in just 17 games so far and is projected to get 352 at-bats. That is not helping his value by any means and he has come nowhere near to looking like the hitter many thought he could be, the hitter that earned him high rankings as a prospect.
Who would replace Montero? With Mike Zunino not ready, I would make a move to get Jesus Sucre on the 40-man and up to Seattle. I wouldn't expect much from him offensively but he would be the backup so this is not a huge deal. He is a decent defender and handles pitchers well.
Other moves would appear to be a little further off. As I have been saying for some time now, keep an eye on Stefen Romero. Just nine games into his first season at Triple-A he is hitting well and most interestingly is now playing left field after playing mostly second while in the organization. Will we see him in the outfield mid-season?
What about Danny Hultzen? He was pitching well before being sidelined with the rotator cuff strain. How quickly can he bounce back?
There is little question in my mind that we should see some moves. As I said at the top of this post, it is no longer early or too soon to make the call that help is needed. If a move can benefit the big club or help a struggling player in the long run, it is time to make those moves.