The Mariners play their first game in Japan in less than a week, but there are still position battles that are unsettled. Here is a look at a few of these open jobs and the options the Mariner’s have to fill them.
Third base: While it appears that Chone Figgins will get another chance to start, there is no guarantee that he will be at third base. Figgins could be the answer for third, but also keep Kyle Seager and Vinnie Catricala in mind. Alex Liddi could also be in the mix, but he is trying to make a transition to first base so it appears that he is less of an option, although he has had a pretty good spring.
Seager and Catricala have each made strong cases for roster spots and have nearly identical stats. I think that Seager is a more likely option out of the two when considering that Seager had a decent showing in the MLB last year while Catricala has not played past AA yet.
Centerfield: This was Franklin Gutierrez’ job prior to his pectoral injury. Now, it’s an open position that will be between Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, and Chone Figgins. Figgins hasn’t been an outfielder for a couple of seasons, be he could be utilized there.
Saunders has not succeeded in his three stints in Seattle, but his good spring training may be a sign that he is finally ready for big league pitching.
Wells, however, who had a more encouraging regular season last year, has struggled in the pre season. He is hitting just .182 with four walks and eight strikeouts.
You can also move Ichiro to centerfield and put Carlos Peguero or even Vinnie Catricala in right field.
Catcher: The catching situation is pretty strange because we three players, Jesus Montero, Miguel Olivo, and John Jaso, who can hit but are less than stellar behind the dish. Adam Moore was making a very strong case for a big league job before he was sidelined by an unfortunate wrist injury.
Montero has had a nice spring offensively but he seems to be the worst backstop on the roster. I had a chance to see him in practices early in spring training, and I was very disappointed by his defensive abilities. In my opinion, he won’t be a legitimate defensive catcher unless he makes dramatic improvements. I think that Montero will be the everyday DH for Seattle, but the catching job will come down to Olivo and Jaso.
Neither of the remaining two options have had particularly strong pre seasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both players made the 25 man roster and split time for the whole season.
Back end of the rotation: The only players certain to be in the Seattle’s starting rotation are Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. From there, it’s a toss up. Iwakuma, Noesi, and Beavan were the projected starters going into spring training, but Kevin Millwood and Erasmo Ramirez both appear to be challenging for spots in the starting rotation.
Ramirez has had an excellent spring, allowing just one walk and six hits in seven innings of work while compiling a 1.29 era. The 37 year old Millwood has not put up the same numbers as Ramirez, but he brings experience and a club house presence that the Mariners may lack. You may also see one of those guys in the bullpen in long reliever/spot starter type roles.
Stay tuned for developments concerning roster moves by the Mariners. Also note that the Mariners play two regular season games in Japan, come back and play five spring training games in Arizona, and then return to the regular season. Because of this odd situation, the Mariners will have an extra look at players, since they will basically be coming out of spring training two separate times.