How Injuries Saved the Mariners This Season


It occurred to me that the Seattle Mariners, in many ways, have lucked out this season  because of injuries. Allow me to explain before you call me mentally challenged or send Pierre-Paul over to help me into an ice bath. Let’s start with the big trade right before the season started.

We shipped off a proven pitcher, Michael Pineda and one of the top minor league pitching arms, Jose Campos, to New York for a top prospect Jesus Montero and a unproven pitcher, Hector Noesi. Most of us scratched our heads and crossed fingers that the risky deal would work out. As it turned out, Pineda and Campos both came up with serious arm injuries which became a sick bit of grace to both Montero and the dismal Noesi experiment as a starter. Can you imagine if Pineda would have stayed healthy and was having another great year how the fans would be screaming and pressuring Jesus?

Especially after Jesus has been exposed as a weak defender, although improving, and a flop against right-handers and at Safeco where his numbers are horrid and nowhere near what all the experts predicted. How bad? He is hitting .197 with an .246 OBP at Safeco and .222 with an OBP of .258 against righties. He has exceeded expectations on the road batting .323 with an OBP of .357 and has killed lefties smashing an impressive .344 thus far. Put it all together and what is the picture? A very raw catcher with poor footwork, with a below-average arm who hits around .260, strikes out 21% of the time and would most certainly lose a footrace with Ron Cey, (the Penguin) or Edgar Martinez. Heck, he might even lose a race to a spry nursing home couple running three-legged.

Because Pineda is on the shelf healing when not sleeping it off in a car somewhere, Jesus has not been subjected to any comparisons which is good and lucky for such a young and promising hitter. It looks like the kid will indeed be a star as he is adjusting to the constant diet of breaking balls thrown to him as we all saw recently when he mashed a curve ball to deep left for a three-run homer off a right hander.  Look at that swing!

Jesus Montero has been free to develop his talent.

Mike Carp‘s shoulder injury in Japan was tragic for Mike but it allowed Kyle Seager to get steady playing time as Figgins became our new left fielder and lead-off man. Seriously, how many more games would have been lost if Seager had been shipped to Tacoma or planted on the bench picking splinters from his rear-both possibilities-and his incredible two-out hits and 68 RBI’s erased? Would a healthy Carp have that many RBI’s? Perhaps, but not likely.

Miguel Olivo‘s pulled hamstring in late April put him on the DL which lead to John “Juggernaut” Jaso getting unleashed from his normal seat on Wedge’s bench. The result? Jaso getting key hit after key hit in pressure situations, including 13 game winners, and demonstrating plate discipline approaching numbers that put him in Edgar Martinez territory for on-base percentage.

Franklin Gutierrez came to spring training looking strong, fit and speedy. I was really looking forward to watching this great athlete perform. When the injury curse hit again, I was sad for the man. Come on, this remarkable guy being wounded for the second straight year? But Guti’s misfortune was a blessing for nearly forgotten Michael Saunders and this time he took advantage of the opportunity. He started to show that he was more than a “prospect” and at least a steady player who has displayed moments of stellar play.

After Franklin came back and was playing so beautifully, the freak throw that knocked him nearly into orbit on a routine pick-off attempt opened the door for Casper Wells who started out great after his short stint in Tacoma, allowed newly acquired 25-year old Eric Thames some regular playing time, and speedy Trayvon Robinson a trip to the majors.  An outfield of Guti, Saunders and Thames/Wells is intriguing especially with  Robinson in the mix battling away for some starts.

Erasmo Ramirez‘s injury on July 28th, combined with Kevin Millwood being nicked and Noesi’s continual problems finally forced Eric Wedge to unlock the bullpen prison Hisashi Iwakuma had been sentenced to for the first three months of the season. The result has been a 3-2 record and a slick 2.77 ERA since the All-Star break for the once proud Japanese ace.

Hisahi Iwakuma has been great as a starter

Charlie Furbush‘s strained tricep landed him on the DL on July 18th. This allowed young fireballers Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps the opportunity to show off their 100-mph-heaters which has been a delight. Now, Charlie is back and the two young pitchers have performed well enough to hang around for some more experience.

Injuries are part of every long major league season. This year multiple Mariner players have responded to playing time they may have never seen in spectacular fashion when injuries opened the door a crack for them. It is credit to the players, especially Seager, Saunders and Jaso that they took advantage.

Kyle Seager has become the team RBI leader.

The one organizational setback that didn’t help in the least was when Mike Blowers became ill and was replaced by David Henderson’s private infomercials for a few telecasts. Yeah, I know that he was a very fine player but so was I. Want to hear about the time I hit an inside-the-park homer with the scouts watching?…

Hey, where’s everybody going?