By Brady Henderson
Highlights from Shannon Drayer's first live Mariners chat of the 2014 season:
Mark H. asked how long the Mariners would need to sustain their hot start for fans to believe in their chances of contending.
Drayer: Obviously we need more time. Guys are going to have ups and downs. One of the biggest things we are seeing, however, isn't just numbers but good situational hitting and that is something that was sorely missing last year and not always dependent on hits.
Ted B asked whether the Mariners are finally seeing a breakthrough with Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley or if it's too early to tell.
Drayer: Small sample but I liked what I saw from Ackley in particular this spring. The goofy swing that he brought to camp last year is gone, his confidence is back, and he appears stronger, too. I think Smoak will continue to be a work in progress but I think they will get more out of him than in years past. Those swings at his size are tough to maintain.
Mike asked the Mariners might call up infielder Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma if Logan Morrison and/or Kyle Seager continue to struggle offensively.
Drayer: Both players will be given a good amount of time to settle in. Seager probably more so than Morrison, and he will get more at-bats anyway because he isn't currently sharing a position. Keep an eye on where they play Franklin, however. That will be a good indicator of what we could see.
Ryan H asked whether trading Franklin is still a possibility for the Mariners and which position they would look to improve if they did.
Drayer: Sure, but they are not going to give him up for anything less than what they want. I think if he is traded it will be as a part of a bigger deal, not a one-for-one. I am not so worried about the bullpen. Dominic Leone and Carson Smith are good depth (even though Leone is up now). Area of need is still outfield.
Ross asked whether James Paxton or Taijuan Walker will have a better season.
Shannon Drayer: Two different players completely. I have written quite often that Paxton appears to be more a finished product at this point. It's all come together for him. Walker reminds me more of Felix Hernandez when he was first called up. Crazy talent but work to be done and continued learning at the Major-League level that needs to happen.
Will L. asked what the Mariners have in store for Jesus Montero, who is currently playing first base in Tacoma.
Drayer: Montero has one job right now and that is to be a big right-handed bat. If he can do that he can hit his way back onto this club assuming they still need one. If not I would think we see them try to further develop him as a first baseman and trade him.
Bob asked whether Corey Hart can recover from his slow start.
Drayer: I think you just have to give him time. He's not completely comfortable at the plate yet. He knows how the swing should feel and what he should be feeling. Manager Lloyd McClendon believes he is getting close and we have seen a few decent swings. It's a process, especially when you have missed a year and then had your spring training interrupted multiple times by dings and dents. The knees do not appear to be a problem.