I did an email interview with Brian Heise of Wahoo’s on First, the Fansided Indians blog, as a preview for the Mariners’ series in Cleveland this weekend. Here’s a link to the interview on their site. I’m also going to publish the answers here.
Brian Heise: The Mariners have spent the past few years stockpiling young talent, especially for the everyday lineup, but have yet to see real results from Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, etc. Is it just growing pains or is something else going on here that is cause for concern?
Me: Some of it is growing pains, but some of it seriously worrying. Montero especially has struggled behind the plate and with the bat, so his days at catcher appear numbered. Smoak and Ackley have improved their approaches at the plate this year, but as the number show, there’s still a ton of room for growth, especially relative to their expectations. Smoak has hit well from the left side of the plate in 2013 (he’s a switch hitter), and his walk numbers are way up.
BH: There’s a lot of hype surrounding Mike Zunino. Do you think we’ll see him with the Mariners this season and, more importantly, is the hype warranted?
Me: Zunino is an interesting case, because he was tearing it up in AAA before strikeouts launched him into a massive slump. He’s not ready for the bigs as of yet, but he might see time later in the summer, depending on how the Montero situation plays out. I fully expect him to be the organization’s catcher of the future once the Montero experiment ends.
BH: How did you feel about the recent extension the Mariners gave to Felix Hernandez? Sound financial investment, or are they playing with fire by committing so much to a player with a lot of mileage on his arm even though he’s still only 27?
Me: It’s hard to quantify how much Felix Hernandez means to this organization in dollar value. He IS the Mariners. So when the big seven year extension came down this winter, nobody in Seattle was too concerned. The Mariners need Felix, not only from a baseball standpoint, but from a financial and perception standpoint as well. In my opinion, no dollar amount was too much to lock up the Seattle sports superstar for the foreseeable future.
BH: What were your expectations for the Mariners heading into 2013 and how do you feel about them midway through May?
Me: I expected them to show improvement, and so far, I’m content with where they are. They come into this weekend at 20-21, in second place in the AL West and having won five of their last six series. I said 80 wins would be an ambitious goal for this team, and they are right on track so far. The difference from the 2012 team is they have two MLB middle-of-the-order mashers in Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse that make them competitive from a hitting standpoint. If they can win games with their three through five spots in the rotation, they could contend for a wild card spot.
BH: What’s your prediction for the series?
Me: The easy prediction here is a split, with the Mariners winning the two games started by Felix and Iwakuma Sunday and Monday. I’m most looking forward to the Felix vs. Justin Masterson match-up Sunday. Masterson looked great in game one of the doubleheader against the YankeesMonday, and Felix will be battling a stiff back. I’ll stick with a split, but I think the Indians beat Felix and the Mariners beat Ubaldo Jimenez tonight.