With ‘Opening Day’ finally around the corner, we can almost close the books on what was an overall-successful spring training for the Seattle Mariners. The M’s currently sit in second place in the Cactus league (19-14) as of Thursday morning, which would be good enough for the third-best record among American League teams.
This will be the first segment of a two-part column as we close the books on the Mariners spring training. It got a little long-winded to turn into one, giant piece, so you will have to read again tomorrow to read the top-5 takeaways from spring training – I know you are super excited. Don’t pretend you’re not.
Now, let’s get to the list – somewhat in order of importance/relevance.
10) Danny Valencia Might Have a Short Leash
Depending on how the first months go for the Mariners, a change at first base could come sooner than later. I was a bit surprised when the M’s sent prospect Dan Vogelbach back to AAA even with an underwhelming slash line of .228/.313/.338. Valencia to this point has only seen seven more at-bats, but has almost identical numbers across the board with a similar slash line of .234/.319/.344. Vogelbach needs to work on his defense, yes, and maybe that was the difference here. I thought Valencia would have been best served as bench guy who can play 1st/3rd/DH and serve as a veteran presence – similar to a Wes Helms-like player. Valencia better start hot – for his case.
9) Yovanni Gallardo Worries Me
I don’t think at any part of his career have I ever felt comfortable on the behalf of whatever team he was pitching for, but in his defense, he was good at one point in Milwaukee. Prince Fielder was, too though…so there’s that. Anyways, I hope for his sake he succeeds in Seattle, but not many No. 5 starters starting the season on April 1 end up still being the No. 5 starter on June 1.
8) Drew Smyly’s Elbow is Never a Precaution
I really thought he was over this elbow situation, then just before the season starts he get put on the shelf for a little bit after two straight very suspect starts. I hate to say it, but the way he ended his spring training overshadowed the way it began with his stellar World Baseball Classic effort. He’s supposed to be ready for his first start – penciled in as the Mariner’s No. 4 guy.
7) Jean Segura is As-Advertised
Honestly, I was a little nervous about this guy coming over in the offseason. I was afraid they overpaid for a guy coming off a once-in-a-career type of season. From what he showed us in spring, he looks like the real deal. Effortless hitting, smart base running and solid defense now that he’s back to his natural position – shortstop.
6) Are the Roles in the Bullpen Defined?
It may very well be just me who is confused, but I’m not quite sure who is supposed to be pitching when for this group. I know when we will see Eddy Diaz – at the end to get a save and hopefully be the best closer in baseball this year. Steve Cishek is injured. Dan Altavilla has probably impressed me the most so far with a 2.79 ERA in nine appearances (9.2 IP). A triumvirate of arms are tied in appearances so far with 10 each, but two of them have an ERA over 6.00 – Jonathan Aro and James Pazos. Lefty veteran Marc Rzepcynski is going to have a roll somewhere, but struggled this spring (9.82 ERA). Others expected to have spots guaranteed are Casey Fien and Nick Vincent, but their numbers aren’t great either. Not to say they haven’t pitched well, but I am super confused. Nick Hagadone has pitched stellar in limited innings, and I know there are others in the mix. Moving on.
Honorable Mentions: Third base coach Manny Acta and first-base coach Casey Candaele had solid springs – waving in players, snaring foul balls and chatting up players as much as possible. Always in uniform and always staying positive – they were really good clappers when players reached base.
The top-5 important things to take-away from Mariners camp will be released tomorrow. Spoiler Alert – you might be disappointed. Until then, stay safe, and remember to feed your animals.