The Seattle Mariners are 2-0 but I can assure you they probably won’t win 90 games let alone 162. The truth about baseball is that you can’t read too much into one game and two isn’t much of sample size either. But if Ichiro can ride off into the sunset like a 1990s baseball movie, it’s okay for you to dream too.
New catcher Omar Narvaez went 0 for 9 with 3 K’s in the two-game set in what looked like a Mike Zunino impression. The law of averages suggest he will turn it around and hit. That same law of averages suggest he may not be able to keep it up behind the plate where he was without an error, passed ball or stolen base allowed in 21 innings.
Third baseman Ryan Healy showed off his massive power going 3 for 9 with two doubles and a home run. History says Healy will be his usual streaky self in 2019; he’s just as likely to hit 2 homers in a game as he is to go 0-4 for with 4K’s. The real mystery will be how he holds up at third base, he had an error and it looks like the team will continue to use Dylan Moore as a defensive replacement for him in later innings.
Shortstop Tim Beckham was the pleasant surprise. He went 5 for 7 with a homer, two walks and a double. The former #1 overall pick has always had great tools but has struggled to put it together like the similar toolsy Melvin “BJ” Upton before him. He will regress to the mean but I also wouldn’t rule out a career year either. Depending on how long the team plays the service time game with JP Crawford I could also imagine Beckham seeing time at third base too if he continues to swing a hot bat.
And how can you not love his bat flip?
Second basemen Dee Gordon went 3 for 10 with a bunch of singles but he stole a base, which was encouraging considering how much his base stealing suffered as he dealt with a bad toe in the second half of the year. He’s a defensive upgrade from Robinson Cano, which is one of the few places the Mariners are better than a year ago defensively.
Jay Bruce has been playing first base where he went 1 for 9 with an error. I don’t know how much Bruce has left in the tank; his signing reminds me an awful lot of the Mariners bringing in an over-the-hill Jason Bay a few years ago. I know the hope is he can create some value so that he can be traded before the deadline but that will depend on him being the type of player another team wants. He looks more like the guy with a .680 OPS last year then the guy with an .832 in 2017 or the .815 in 2016.
Designated Hitter Edwin Encarnacion went 0 for 6 with 4 K’s but he also drew 2 walks in each game. He’s not here for long but as long as he can have productive at bats he will be a good fit.
When Ichiro hit a chopper to second with two outs in the eighth inning on Thursday morning in Japan, I thought he was going to do it again. He’s made a career out of turning slow rollers into infield singles. The Ichiro of ten years ago, there isn’t even a throw to first and the Ichiro of even five years ago beats it out. Sadly baseball has been unkind to aging stars in the post-steroid era.
Mitch Haniger went 2 for 8 with a homerun and a double. I think he’s going to have another solid year even if he’s close to his ceiling.
Domingo Santana had the grand slam on Wednesday and also stole a base. While the Brewers didn’t have room for him, the Mariners made a shrewd trade to get a guy who would be much more valuable to them than his previous team. His fielder’s choice on Thursday produced the game winning
Marco Gonzalez put together a quality start with 6 innings, 3 ER, 1 walk and 4 K’s on opening night. He didn’t have his best stuff, allowing two home runs, but he’s shown an ability to battle on the mound, which is encouraging. When Felix Hernandez or Mike Leake “don’t have it” games get out of hand, but Gonzalez finds ways to keep the team in the game.
Yusei Kikuchi looked good even though he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning of his start. He throws strikes, goes after hitters and showed some agility on the mound on one-play fielding a ball on his own and outracing the hitter to first-base. The team is going to take it easy on him this year and pull him at the first sign of trouble, you can’t help but be curious to see how he handles pressure situations.
As expected the bullpen is going to be a work in progress. On the one hand Hunter Strickland was lights out with back to back 1-2-3 inning saves. Zac Rosscup has showed some chops as a setup man with 3 K’s in 1 2/3 innings. Brandon Brennan, Matt Festa and Cody Gearrin held their opponents scoreless although their sample sizes were very small. Dan Altavilla blew a lead in middle relief but the team was able to pick him up. I’m concerned about Nick Rumbelow who gave up 3 runs in ⅓ of an inning. He’s now allowed 9 home runs in 33 career innings so we’ll have to see how much patience the team can have with him.
The A’s are notorious slow starters, so the Mariners will get a much stiffer test when the defending champion Red Sox come to town for Opening Day. I think the Mariners have to feel pretty good about where they are and sending Ichiro out a winner but the real questions this season have never been about Gonzalez, Haniger or Santana. It’s whether Hernandez and Leake are worth handing the ball every fifth day and whether the middle relievers can pitch on back to back nights. For that we’ll have to wait and see.