By 710Sports.com staff

With the Mariners hours away from their opener, Shannon Drayer checks in from Angels Stadium with an overview of Seattle's roster and thoughts on how the club will fare this season compared to 2013.

By Shannon Drayer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In one day we can close the book on the offseason. The picture is complete for now on paper. Twenty-five have been selected and nine will take the field Monday in Anaheim. Arms have been stretched out and swings have been found. The work has been put in and games that mean nothing have been played.

In his first spring training as Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon was greeted in Peoria, Ariz. with a giant tumbler of puzzle pieces dumped at his feet -- 68 pieces and many spaces to be filled, with some fits not obvious. For every question we who have watched the Mariners for years had, he had even more as he was seeing this for the first time. Different eyes, different ideas, and plenty to see.

We saw Felix Hernandez go about his business of getting ready for the season, the perennial calm within the Mariners' storm, seeming to know exactly what he needed from each bullpen, each live batting practice session and each simulated game. We saw Hisashi Iwakuma stand behind Felix and watch those early sessions. He would have been throwing alongside him had his finger not been in a splint. All he could do this spring was watch and then tell Felix that the session looked good when he finished.

We saw Taijuan Walker throw two bullpen sessions with Felix and then disappear, the shoulder prompting the Mariners to slow him and eventually shut him down for a week.

We saw Robinson Cano bring the spring routine he had developed years ago in Florida to the dry fields in Arizona. We saw something we had never seen before in Peoria as he took swings with a screen placed on the outside edge of home plate. Perfect, easy swing despite the obstacle. One day we saw Justin Smoak with him attempting to take the same swing, hands forced to stay inside the ball, legs pressed into action. Weeks later there would be four Mariners joining Cano after workouts for the "net drill." Smoak, Nick Franklin, Kyle Seager and Logan Morrison all took their turns with the drill, and when Cano stepped up to take his swings all four took a knee behind the plate and watched in silent appreciation as he made what was so difficult look effortless.

We saw Brad Miller go out and claim his position. Three months in the bigs hardly makes a big leaguer with a secure position, but Miller was not going to backtrack this spring. No, he would come in bigger and stronger, more able to get through a big-league season, lesson learned that so many have learned before him. Big-league time takes a different toll on the body.

We saw Dustin Ackley and Stefen Romero learn how to be outfielders. We saw Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte learn to be better outfielders. We saw Andy Van Slyke build his outfielders' arms and legs up in the first weeks, then run them hard in drills to the wall -- insane popup drills, drills to push their limits of range. We didn't see much of Corey Hart and Morrison in the outfield.

We saw Carson Smith make seven appearances without giving up a run, walking just two and striking out 11. We saw Dominic Leone almost match his performance surrendering just two runs in nine appearances with one walk and 10 strikeouts. Both will start the season in the minor leagues.

We saw Franklin taking extra work before a night game at shortstop long after his teammates had returned to the clubhouse, and the next day grabbing Saunders' glove and heading out to shag balls in the outfield during batting practice. Franklin did everything he could to make this club but was told no. Saunders sat with him at his locker for a good amount of time after he learned the news.

We have question marks -- big question marks. The rotation that needed one pitcher coming into the spring suddenly needed three. They have five starters but plenty of concern with the lack of experience and injury history of a good part of that rotation. The early anointed leadoff hitter (Almonte) did not break the .200 mark. The big right-handed bat who was brought in (Hart) has played in one A game in the last 10 days and clearly never got it going. Will the extra minor-league at-bats in the past three days get him to Opening Day ready or is there a switch that can be flipped Monday?

We saw surprises, and good surprises as well. Hart's spot in the outfield was quickly filled by a kid who the Mariners have liked for some time but had nowhere to play him. Romero came through with the bat and showed surprising versatility in the field, making plays in right field he would not have been able to make last year.

Roenis Elias was perhaps the biggest surprise. You heard rumblings that the Mariners liked him early in camp, and he certainly got a lot of looks in the early games in relief. He wasn't being given starter innings but he was given multiple innings. "Is this guy a candidate for the long relief role?" we wondered early. When his name popped up on the pitching probables later in camp as a starter, eyebrows were raised. Something new? Not according to McClendon, who said he had been looked at as a starter from the start. Less than two weeks later he would be on the Opening Day roster. Elias' journey from Cuba to the big leagues was complete.

We saw great spring numbers with Miller and Ackley in the top 10 in the Cactus League in average, slugging percentage and hits, and Erasmo Ramirez and Elias in the top 10 in ERA. The team lead the American League in runs scored and tied for the lead in home runs. Spring numbers are spring numbers and not much else, but at the very least those who did well should be taking a little extra confidence into the start of the season. Better to have found it in the spring than to be looking for it March 31.

So what do we have with this group? It it far too soon to say with any certainty. We know what they are on paper. We know what they did this spring. If this were a veteran club we would have a better idea. Performances would be more predictable, but with young and hopefully developing players, players coming off injury and a new manager and coaching staff, it is best to sit back and watch for a while.

What we do have for the first time this spring is 25 players. Those 25 players (plus Iwakuma, who is on the DL) boarded the plane in Arizona and came together for the first time. There were no players fighting for positions, no extra players from the minor leagues. Just 25 players who will have jerseys hanging in lockers in the visiting clubhouse in Anaheim. Every year we see this sight. The first flight. The first time they put on the suits and board the team plane as a Mariner. New faces in old seats. This year 10 players got on the big-league plane heading for the Opening Day game for the very first time.

If the sights were different, the sounds were the same. Excitement. The long stretches without days off and the hard work behind them. Uncertainty put behind them for some, at least for a little while now. Tough decisions were made. It is now within their control. Perform and they stay.

So what's next? It's up to them.

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – This is it. The final game of the spring. It is a show-and-go with travel right after, so we will be little light on the content today. Listen to or watch a ballgame and get on with your day.

One newsy item to report – the Mariners now officially have a 25-man roster. The team placed Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 21st. Some quick updates on all three.

Iwakuma was given a clean bill of health by the doctor Friday and is now a full-go in his throwing program. The splint can come off the finger once and for all (he had still been wearing it some) and he can begin to throw with normal intensity. He has missed a full spring training and the arm will have to be built back up, but that shouldn't take long as he has been able to do arm and shoulder work. He has yet to throw a bullpen so there is no estimated date for his return, but I would expect late April. He will travel with the team to Anaheim and most likely stay with the team for the majority of his work and then be sent out for individual starts with minor league teams and then return after. The Mariners will want to keep a close eye on him.

Walker is most likely closer to a return. He is scheduled to throw in Peoria Sunday and then should be sent out for his first rehab start, most likely to High Desert.

Pryor has thrown in a number of sim and minor league games, and the word is he will be sent to Double-A Jackson. With him it is about continuing to build arm strength and refining his pitches and command. He has had no setbacks this spring and could be close to ready.

While the other two will most likely be brought back as soon as they are healthy and built up, I think the Mariners will be looking for consistency coming out of the pen when it comes to Pryor.

One last name that some of you might be surprised to not see on the list is Brandon Maurer. Maurer lost a few weeks to back troubles and has to build up innings, but he was optioned to Tacoma instead of being put on the DL.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Hart DH
Smoak 3
Romero 9
Seager 5
Zunino 2
Ackley 7

Young

Well, well, well. A lefty on the hill, and this is the final lineup of the spring. Will we see a platoon situation in left? I hope so. Dustin Ackley hitting ninth against lefties? Interesting. Kyle Seager further down the order. Is this the lefty lineup?

One additional note – Corey Hart is back in the lineup for the first time since March 20. He has been getting at bats in minor league games the last three days however.

Note

Just a reminder, once again the Mariners will host an open house on Opening Day (Monday) at Safeco Field. Fans can come to the field to watch the Mariners take on the Angels in HD on MarinersVision. All fans that come through the gates will receive a free True to the Blue T-Shirt. Tickets are just $1 with all proceeds benefiting Northwest Harvest. Kids under 14 are free but will need a tickets, which are available online, at team stores, at the Safeco Field ticket office or at Ticketmaster. Gates open at 5:50 p.m., first pitch is at 7:05 p.m. I obviously haven't been to an Opening Day open house but have heard rave reviews. Sounds like a neat event.

Young-644
With his shoulder problems behind him, Chris Young is grateful for the chance to revive his career in Seattle. (AP)

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – After a whirlwind 72 hours, Chris Young has a new locker in a new clubhouse with a huge jersey in it with the number 53 on the back and Mariners on the front. All's well that ends well for the newest Mariner, who signed his contract Thursday morning. Turns out the contract wasn't the only thing he signed.

"Yeah I signed an advance consent. It really was a non-issue," he said of the document that allows the club to release him for any non-health related reason in the first 45 days of the season. "I always tell myself it is a performance-based game and the club has the right to release you at any point. It's just a matter of whether your salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season. For me I don't play for the money. I play because I love the game. The opportunity to be out here and be healthy, I am just super excited to be out there and making the most of the opportunity."

Young is grateful to be playing at all. A year ago he was ready to call it a career as he was unable to escape shoulder pain that led to numerous stints on the disabled list and two shoulder surgeries. Luckily he ran into a former teammate who thought his symptoms sounded familiar. His hunch was right. Young was suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), a nerve condition that can cause pain in the upper limbs. He underwent surgery last June and hasn't felt the pain since.

"I woke up from surgery and it was the first time in a long time my shoulder didn't hurt," he said. "Four weeks later I was throwing a baseball. It wasn't a lengthy rehab. They don't repair anything so you don't have to worry about sort of re-damaging."

After the surgery a doctor told him that the TOS was most likely responsible for most of the pain and a number of the trips to the DL he had made in the previous five years. Young does not appear to be bitter about losing the time to a something that was tough to diagnose.

"Hindsight is 20/20," he said. "I'm just grateful it's been corrected and I look forward to hopefully some healthy years ahead. My shoulder feels like new. It's exciting for me. I am hopeful there are great things ahead and excited to hopefully make up for some lost time."

He will make up for that lost time with a team that has not one player that has been a teammate of his during his nine-year career. That doesn't mean he doesn't know this team, however.

"I'm a baseball fan so I have watched a lot of Mariners games," he said. "I've seen this club play. I know it is a mix of some young guys and some older guys and I think it is a very exciting team. I'm super excited. I think there is a lot of talent here and I look forward to being a part of it."

We will get our first look at Young as a Mariner the game against Colorado Saturday.

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – A ton of stuff came our way in the last hour so we will just get straight to it. For starters, the Mariners have a 25-roster. To be more accurate, they have 28 on the roster after cuts Friday morning but three who are on that list – Taijuan Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma and Stephen Pryor – are heading to the disabled list.

So the final 25-man roster would appear to be:

Starters

Felix Hernandez
Erasmo Ramirez
James Paxton
Roenis Elias
Chris Young

Catchers

Mike Zunino
John Buck

Infielders

Justin Smoak
Robinson Cano
Brad Miller
Kyle Seager
Willie Bloomquist
Logan Morrison

Outfielders

Dustin Ackley
Abraham Almonte
Corey Hart
Stefen Romero
Michael Saunders

Relievers

Fernando Rodney
Danny Farquhar
Charlie Furbush
Tom Wilhelmsen
Yoervis Medina
Joe Beimel
Hector Noesi

Nick Franklin, Blake Beavan, Lucas Luetge, Endy Chavez and a number of others were told that they had not made the club. Obviously this was tough news for Franklin, who did not have a bad spring by any means. Brad Miller just had a better one.

"Both played extremely well but Brad separated himself," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I would be a fool if I told you he didn't. We all saw it. He separated himself and played extremely well. He deserves the opportunity and he is getting it. Nick didn't lose the job, it is more of Brad winning the job."

Franklin will go to Triple-A, where he will play shortstop. McClendon said there was the possibility he could play some outfield, too.

The Franklin conversation was no doubt difficult to have. No manager enjoys sending a player down. They do enjoy, however, granting a player his big-league dream. McClendon got to do that with Roenis Elias, who was overjoyed to get the news that he made it to the big leagues.

"He was very happy. I don't understand everything that he said because most of it was Spanish, but I think in the end he tried to kiss me," McClendon said with a chuckle. "I figured he was happy at that point."

There are some who have expressed concern that Elias is jumping from Double-A to the big leagues and have pointed to what happened with Brandon Maurer, who made the same jump last year. In my opinion, both pitchers are talented, but have two different mentalities. While you never know what is going to happen until they get into a big-league game, Elias appears more ready in that aspect than Maurer did a year ago.

"Look, getting here was a major accomplishment," McClendon said, "and really I thought this was really important. You talk about the lights coming on, I don't think there is anything that is really going to phase this young man because he came off a boat where he was fighting for his life to get here. I think he is going to be just fine and I think he has got a bright future ahead of him."

One last note on the final 25-man roster: the pitching order listed above is the pitching order they will start the season with. Yes, they have lefties going back to back but it will be against different clubs the first two times through the rotation. They will most likely make an adjustment down the road.

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – A quick update on the Chris Young signing:

I talked to general manager Jack Zduriencik a few minutes ago and as suspected, Young had been throwing in minor-league games this spring with the Nationals so the 10 1/3 innings that are listed in the spring stats are not his only innings. According to Zduriencik, he is up to 75 pitches and he expects him to get the start on Saturday against the Rockies.

"We had a history with him and liked what we saw," Zduriencik said. "The velocity is coming back a bit and he is very deceptive. He's a veteran guy, terrific person. His pedigree was important coming into this rotation."

The Mariners had been scouting Young for the past week. He passed his physical and agreed to a deal Wednesday night, signed the contract Thursday morning and then went out and threw a bullpen. While he is healthy now, Zduriencik knows there is no guarantee with any player, let alone a player with an extensive injury history. Young hasn't pitched a full year in the big leagues since 2007.

"No doubt you have to be concerned with anyone who has gone through what he has with injuries, but we knew him before, we had his medicals, the velocity is up and he feels good. There is always a risk with injury history but [team physician Dr. Edward Khalfayan] felt good about it," he said.

The move gives the Mariners a bit more of much needed pitching depth. A little breathing room perhaps but not enough to make Zduriencik feel completely comfortable at that position.

"You always need depth," he said. "You never know. Pitchers go down, we have seen it in baseball this spring. But we have four pitchers we think are close. We'll see what we have and go out there and compete."

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – We learned Thursday morning why manager Lloyd McClendon was hesitant to announce his complete starting five despite the fact that there were only five starters remaining in camp. There was another on the way.

The Mariners announced that they have signed right-hander Chris Young to a major-league deal. Young had been in camp with the Nationals, where reports on him were favorable. He did not make the 25-man roster, however, and opted out of his minor-league deal.

Young, 34, has pitched for three teams in his nine-year big-league career and put up a 53-43 record with a 3.79 ERA. Last year he underwent surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve issue that puts pressure on a pitcher's throwing shoulder. He made nine starts in the Nationals' minor-league system after the surgery but threw only 37 innings.

His spring numbers with the Nationals were good but he only threw 10 1/3 innings. I would assume that he threw in some minor-league games as well – those numbers are not included in spring stats – so I wouldn't be worried about that. By all appearances he is coming here to start.

My quick thoughts on this: Well, my job just got tougher. He is 6-foot-10. Time to put away the flats and get ready for some teasing, which I have already seen on Twitter.

Seriously though, this is a good move. Regardless of the recent health history, if he is healthy now that is all that matters. The Mariners may only need him for a handful of starts. They may see good things in those starts and have him all year, which would be fantastic as it again would provide depth and add a little needed experience to a young rotation.

Is this an upgrade over Scott Baker or Randy Wolf? Only time will tell, but most likely. Baker didn't look ready and will start in the minors for the Rangers. Wolf has yet to sign.

We should learn more about the Mariners' plans for Young in the next day.

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – A question I have been asked on each show I have been on recently on 710 ESPN Seattle is whether Abraham Almonte will make the team.

zbM70.AuSt
Poor spring numbers likely won't keep Abraham Almonte from beginning the season as the Mariners' leadoff hitter and starting center fielder. (AP)
It's funny because we (the media) become so immersed in what is going on with the Mariners here in camp that we don't look at the spring happenings like a good number of fans do.

For the more casual fan, they probably will recognize the name but assume that he is the fourth-outfielder candidate because he is young and his numbers haven't been great this spring. For us, he is the guy who has manned center from day one. Of course he is going to make the team.

Almonte has led off and started 20 of 29 and 12 of the last 14 games in center. If that doesn't scream Opening Day roster I don't know what does. There is that matter of his numbers, however. How could manager Lloyd McClendon allow a guy who is hitting .174 with an on-base percentage of .237 make the team, let alone be the leadoff hitter?

McClendon has made it clear that he is not just looking at spring players with any player in camp. With Almonte, he has seen improvement in the at-bats and number of times he makes solid contact. He sees him progressing in a positive direction at the plate. McClendon's comments about what he has seen from Almonte and what he expects from his leadoff hitter can be heard here.

One thing McClendon talks about is how he expects Almonte to use his most valuable tool, his speed. If he doesn't, he may not be up with the big club for long. The average and the on-base percentage will have to improve and if it doesn't, going back to Michael Saunders is always an option, although the Mariners believe their strongest defense comes with Saunders at a corner outfield spot.

There is still a possibility that a center fielder could be acquired through trade at some point during the season and also the chance that one of the young outfielders in the organization such as James Jones or Julio Morban could push for the position.

I don't think this will be a year-long audition for Almonte. He will have to show more with the bat or more specifically the ability to get on base. A lot of work has been put in with him both at the plate and in the field. That will continue when the regular season begins. How much he can learn and improve at the big-league level will determine how long he stays.

« Previous
Next »


mynorthwest.com
Copyright © 2014 Bonneville International. All rights reserved.