Updated Apr 13, 2012 - 2:26 pm
What we are bringing home
Eight weeks. I have been with this team for the last eight weeks. Folks who are interested in this team will get their first look in-person Friday. I have seen them for the past 51 days and traveled over 15,000 miles with them in the last two weeks. Without a doubt, this has been the most whirlwind spring that I have covered, ever. The travel is over for the next 10 days and the Mariners are ready to come home. A very different Mariners team.
Last year was about seeing the kids and getting them comfortable. This year the kids will be competing for everyday jobs. Eric Wedge has released some of his self-imposed constraints as we have seen in the early going and now the the job is to find out who will stick. What is the best offense to put out on the field? As I said in my previous post those who "own" a position, those who Wedge has called "my starting (insert position here)" will have the opportunity to settle in but it won't be a long adjustment period if there are others who are knocking on the door.
Don't count on an everyday lineup anytime soon. Too many players need to be seen and that is only going to get trickier when Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez return because they need to be seen as well. After a year of struggling to fill out a lineup card because of the lack of offensive possibilities, Wedge will be faced with managing the playing time of too many for too few positions. We have talked about log jams at the minor-league level for certain positions. Well, we have them at the major-league level as well. Ultimately a good problem to have but a challenge for the manager.
A positive step in the right direction was Jesus Montero's catching debut. The sooner he can catch on a more regular basis the sooner Wedge has room at DH to see another bat. He won't be rushed but he won't be held back either. Trust Wedge to give him what he can handle at the position.
How about making room for Kyle Seager at second on Thursday and sitting Dustin Ackley? Did you think you would see that early this year? Now don't make too much of that. Wedge told me before the game that Seager will get a game off soon as well but still, an interesting way to keep his bat going.
When Carp returns they will need to get him going and I can't help but wonder if we might see him a game or two at first as well as in left. Gutierrez should arrive shortly after Carp and there is interest to see what he is after bulking up in the offseason. He looked very impressive before he got hurt.
The bullpen is still sorting itself out and the rotation looks strong with more coming. Should the need for a starter arise before Danny Hultzen or James Paxton are ready I would expect we could see Erasmo Ramirez plucked from the pen and put into the rotation. Then what happens when Hultzen and Paxton are ready? Depth. The Mariners have it at pitching, without a doubt. They have it in the pen as well with names most of you probably wouldn't even recognize, some closer than others.
Yes, it will be a tall task for Eric Wedge to sort through all of this but this is what he signed on to do. The task will be made more enjoyable as more success is seen on the field. The talent appears to be here and at some point it will click. The team is still young and it will take its lumps, however, as the age-old dance of league adjusting to rookies and rookies fighting to adjust to the league continues. It looks like they have the right group of rookies, however, and that is what could turn this from an interesting season to a fun one at some point.
For now, Opening Night.
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