By Evan Seguirant
Special to 710Sports.com

Four impressive outings to begin his major-league career at the end of the 2013 season and a strong start to spring training this year have led to high hopes for Mariners pitcher James Paxton. With injuries to fellow starters Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners are counting on Paxton to deliver upon his potential right away.

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Injuries in the Mariners' rotation could bump rookie James Paxton up to the No. 2 spot to begin the season. (AP)
Paxton, 25, has posted five scoreless innings in spring training this year. He won three of his first four starts last September while posting a 1.50 ERA and registering 21 strikeouts, and as he told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" earlier this week, that made a positive impact on him mentally.

"It really helped me build my confidence. Going up there and having that success showed me that I can compete at that level and that I belong there. It really helped me coming into camp, feeling like I belong in the big leagues," Paxton said.

Bill Krueger, a ROOT baseball analyst and former MLB pitcher, agrees that Paxton is ready.

"First of all, he's left-handed, and that's always a good thing that makes you a more valuable pitcher," Krueger told "Bob and Groz" earlier this seek. "No. 2, he's got a great arm. This is a guy who throws easily in the mid-90s. The third thing I like about him is that he's got a great demeanor on the mound, he doesn't rattle ... he seems to be a guy who needed the competition level to rise for him to bring his game up."

Paxton was initially competing for a spot in the back of the rotation, but that could change. Walker has recently resumed throwing after missing time with shoulder inflammation and Iwakuma injured a tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand. It's possible that neither will be be ready for the beginning of the season, which could bump Paxton into the No. 2 spot behind Felix Hernandez.

Paxton realizes that expectations are high this year. When asked about his strategy for his third spring start, Paxton said: "To progress with my stuff and get my pitches going. Last time out I threw some more curveballs and the changeup was feeling good and it's just a matter of getting that fastball command where I want it, working my pitches on both sides of the zone."

Paxton struggled with his control for most of the 2013 season as a member with Triple-A Tacoma, walking 3.58 batters per nine innings (the major-league average is 3.3 BB/9) with an ERA of 4.45. In his four starts with the Mariners, he cut his BB/9 to 2.6 and his ERA lowered to 1.50.

Krueger said that Paxton's fastball command will be the key to his success this season.

"I love the way he goes about his business," Krueger said. "The idea that you come with your fastball first and you pitch on both sides of the plate with your fastball and you keep your other pitches in your back pocket for when you really need them. And that's the kind of style that's going to allow him to pitch deeper in games. He's going to get better defense played behind him, and that's the winning formula."

By Brady Henderson

Suspending three players before the first spring practice certainly wasn't how Chris Petersen wanted to begin his career at Washington.

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Chris Petersen
But as the Huskies' new head coach told "Bob and Groz" on 710 ESPN Seattle Wednesday, off-the-field issues are often an unfortunate reality with college athletes.

"I've been doing this long enough to know that it comes with the job. It's part of the job," Petersen said. "These guys are still young guys that are developing and trying to figure things out, and that's our job is to try to help educate them. As we know and through our experiences, guys are going to make mistakes. Part of the thing is helping these guys figure it out and mature and do things the right way and mature.

"But it's a hard, painful process at times, no question."

The absences of quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow didn't come as a surprise as Washington began spring practices Tuesday. That of linebacker John Timu, however, did. The three-year starter and two-time defensive captain was suspended for the first two weeks of spring ball after he was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of vehicle prowling, which were deferred in King County District Court last month.

Petersen did not comment on the specifics on Timu's suspension, though he noted that the alleged crime took place well before Washington's current coaching staff arrived.

"So we deal with it how you're supposed to and you move on," he said.

Miles and Stringfellow, meanwhile, remain indefinitely suspended for their alleged involvement in an assault that took place last month near UW's campus. Neither player has been charged, and Petersen indicated that he'll wait for the legal process to play out before making a decision on their statuses with the team.

Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.

By Brady Henderson

Scott Baker missed all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery then experienced what he called a "pretty major setback" that limited him to three games at the end of last season.

Now he believes the health issues are behind him as he tries to make the Mariners' rotation.

"It's really nice to actually come into a spring training and feel well," he told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" on Tuesday, "and I feel like I'm kind of getting back to my old self."

That would be a good thing for the Mariners, and not only because of the fact that Baker, 32, averaged 11 wins during the five seasons before his elbow surgery. As Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss in the video above, Seattle's rotation could use a reliable pitcher given all the questions marks it's currently dealing with.

By Brady Henderson

The Seahawks and 49ers have plenty in common, from the division they reside in to the way their teams are defined by strong defenses, physical running backs and young, athletic quarterbacks.

Where the similarities end is in the harmony between their respective head coaches and front offices. While there has been no indication that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been in anything but lockstep while molding the Seahawks into Super Bowl champions, recent reports have characterized the relationship between their 49ers counterparts, head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, as turbulent and potentially untenable.

From Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com:

The men are barely speaking, I'm told, and almost all communication is through email. Harbaugh also has a strained relationship with team president Paraag Marathe, sources said, and he has clashed with many within the organization. It could prove untenable. If anything, the impression I got this week was that the situation there is actually much worse than how it has been portrayed in the media, and helps explain the delay in giving a new deal to the coach, who has two years left on a contract he has outperformed.

That's the who and the what. Those theorizing about the when and the why have cited personnel disagreements dating back to the 2011 draft, Harbaugh's first with the 49ers, and what one 49ers writer, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, described as the coach's proclivity for chaos and inability to function without discord regardless of those around him.

Mike Sando of ESPN.com, a guest on Monday's edition of "Bob and Groz" on 710 ESPN Seattle, said the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl and going through the 49ers to do so inflamed matters, helping explain why such dysfunction could exist on a team that has had so much on-field success.

"It's just amazing to me," Sando said. "Over the last three years they've won 41 games, counting the playoffs. No one's won more. They're tied with New England. And you're having issues? That's why I really think the Seattle component is a big part of it."

In the video above, Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby share their thoughts on the 49ers saga and how different it appears to the harmony in Seattle's front office.

By Brent Stecker

With no new developments on a possible return of the NBA to Seattle, the city is now taking a long, hard look at another option to bridge the gap of time between the seasons of the Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners.

Hoping to ride a wave of momentum after the Winter Olympics hockey tournament, the Seattle Sports Commission will head to Vancouver this week to watch a Canucks game and meet with the city's sports and tourism officials to get more knowledge about the NHL product.

Ralph Morton, the executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, talked with 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" about the motivation behind the trip, and he explained that it appears to be an opportune time for the city to pursue an NHL franchise.

"I see this town and a thriving community," Morton said. "I think the time is right. I think this community can afford it and everything I hear has been pretty darn positive (about bringing the NHL to Seattle)."

As was the case in last year's failed bid to bring the NBA back to Seattle, a new arena would be necessary for Seattle to gain an NHL franchise. The NHL has already proved to be more realistically viable for Seattle than the NBA, though, by showing an interest in expansion.

"I think it says something the fact that (the NHL) would consider a temporary situation. I think that's a strong statement about how eager they might be to be here in Seattle," Morton said.

Morton believes Seattle fans would take to an NHL franchise much like it has to the Sounders, who regularly set MLS attendance records at CenturyLink Field.

"The sport, to some people it's foreign, but there's a ton of hockey fans in the region. I think it would be a big success similar to MLS coming to town," Morton said. "I also like the idea … similar to what's happened with the soccer, where you create the little I-5 rivalry between Portland and Vancouver for soccer, here's an opportunity with hockey. Imagine those Vancouver games, playing against them. It just kinda has a built-in audience and builds that instant rivalry."

A number of new politicians, including mayor Ed Murray, have recently taken office in Seattle, though Morton doesn't see that as a road block to a potential deal with the NHL.

"I think our new mayor is supportive of the idea. You saw him in the big parade as one of the 12th Men there riding along with some of the (Seahawks). I think they realize the economic impact that sports has on the region. I'm positive from a political perspective that they see the value that this would bring."

The prevailing idea is that Seattle sports fans are more set on seeing a return of the Sonics in Seattle, but Morton believes those same fans could be just as interested in an NHL franchise.

"The Sonics truly were part of our culture, and I think they kinda still are even though they're not here at the moment," he said. "It's interesting, when you hear people and you talk to a group, you might walk in assuming that it's 'Let's get the Sonics back.' But you keep getting a lot of these people who will say, 'We want hockey as much as we want the Sonics.'

"You do have this core base of people because of who we are as a city, where people have moved here from the Midwest, people have moved here from Canada, a little more of an international, diverse city, that we have a ton of hockey fans here. So there's a passionate base that maybe is hockey-first. In my opinion, it would work pretty well here."

By 710Sports.com staff

Draft analyst seem to be in agreement that this year's crop of prospects is the best in recent memory. Opinions differ, though, as to which positions are the deepest.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" Wednesday for a draft discussion, and offensive line was the first position he mentioned.

"I don't think they're going to use a first-round pick on anybody like that," Lande said of the Seahawks, who hold the final pick in the first round, "but I think when you get into that second or third round I think there's some really good football players."

Lande mentioned UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo and Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson as two of the best guards that are expected to be drafted in that range. As it stands now, Seattle doesn't have a third-round pick, having traded it to Minnesota in the Percy Harvin deal.

In the video above, Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss the areas on Seattle's offensive line that the team could improve through the draft.

By Brady Henderson

Tight end is becoming an increasingly specialized position in the NFL, one at which not many play every down and few excel at more areas than one.

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Seferian-Jenkins
New England's Rob Gronkowski is one of the exceptions. He's become the gold standard at the position. And according to Matt Williamson, a former NFL scout who now works for ESPN, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the closest thing this year's draft has to Gronkowski.

Williamson, a guest on 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" Monday, said that of the top three tight-end prospects – Seferian-Jenkins, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro and North Carolina's Eric Ebron – the former Husky is "the most Gronk-like" because of his ability to be an every-down player who can line up with his hand in the dirt and a capable run blocker in addition to a receiving threat.

"I'm thinking he's a top-50 pick for sure," Williamson said, "and maybe even a late-first, early-second guy."

Seferian-Jenkins won the Mackey Award last season after catching 36 passes for 450 yards and eight touchdowns, widening his lead as the most prolific tight end in school history.

He missed the season opener while serving a suspension for an offseason DUI arrest. Williamson believes that NFL teams will look past that if they determine throughout the scouting process that it was a one-time mistake and not indicative of a serious problem.

"You actually have to sit down with the young man," he said. "When I was scouting for the Browns, you go there and you talk to secretaries and strength coaches and janitors and if a lot of them are telling you, 'He's a fine kid, he just screwed up,' then it's a lot easier to brush that off."

By Brady Henderson

What we know about Golden Tate is that he is a tough, durable and explosive wide receiver whose best days are likely still ahead of him and whose desire to remain with the Seahawks is such that he could conceivably turn down slightly larger offers to do so.

We also know that the Seahawks would love to keep Tate, who is one of their key free agents and a player who was instrumental in Seattle winning its first Super Bowl. It's just a matter of the extent to which the team will go to do so, and whatever price the Seahawks determine for Tate will be at least somewhat influenced by the strength and amount of less expensive alternatives should they have to move forward without him.

According to Matt Williamson, the Seahawks will have plenty.

Williamson, a former NFL scout who now works for ESPN, told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" on Monday that this draft is going to be among the deepest in recent memory and singled out wide receiver as one of the strongest positions. He even suggested that the depth at receiver could push to the middle of the draft prospects that would otherwise be taken much earlier.

"There's a ton of underclass wide receivers in this class, and that might work out for Seattle well, too," he said. "If you get a fourth-round receiver that has a lot of tools that generally goes at the end of the second round and you let him wait for a year while the guys that you have continue to play well, maybe he's a real find."

In the video above, Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss how that might affect the Seahawks' thinking on Tate and propose one reason why Seattle may be reticent to rely on finding a replacement in the draft.

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Bob Stelton

Bob Stelton is the co-host of "Bob and Groz". He came to 710 ESPN Seattle from 101 ESPN in St. Louis and had previously worked for Sporting News Radio in Chicago and Santa Monica, Calif. Bob began his radio career in Seattle in 1997 after a failed attempt to become a rock star.

The Groz

Dave Grosby is the co-host of "Bob and Groz." The Groz has spent the last 22 years of his 40-year broadcast career as a Seattle sports talk show host. Dave is also the play-by-play announcer for Seattle U basketball on KTTH 770. Before coming to Seattle, Dave worked at KFI in Los Angeles and KFBK in Sacramento. He's been married to his wife Bonnie for 24 years.

Colin Paisley

After two years as the producer for "Brock and Salk," Colin Paisley now produces "Bob and Groz." Colin also hosts "Seattle Sports at Night" with Tom Wassell and Matt Pitman. Colin came to 710 ESPN Seattle after five years at various FM music stations in Bellingham and Seattle. In addition to his time as producer and host, Colin likes to spend his time embracing his "Slacker Gen-Y" persona by napping and not caring about stuff. Plus he likes tons of bands you've never heard of, and once you hear of them he'll stop liking them.

"El Hombre" Michael Bradley

Don't miss "El Hombre" Michael Bradley every Tuesday at 1 p.m. on "Bob and Groz." You can read Bradley's thoughts on his blog or you can follow him on Twitter at @dailyhombre.



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