2017 Mariners Rotation Putting In Work To Be The Best

Sep 21, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) reacts after the final out of the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) reacts after the final out of the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

It appears that the Mariners expected rotation for 2017 is putting in more effort (as a whole) than in year’s past. Should this give M’s fans hope that they’re revving up for a special year? Or are these adjustments more normal than we expect?

Every offseason, players use their time off to prepare for the upcoming season with the hope that they will play better than they ever have. Yet, the recent reports out of the Mariners spring training camp have been more encouraging than recent offseasons.

From new drills to personal adjustments, it looks as though this year’s M’s rotation is gearing up to be as powerfully dominant as their starting lineup is expected to be.

Since the 2016 season ended, the Mariners longtime ace, Felix Hernandez, has vowed to return to his old Cy Young form. There have even been reports from the Seattle media saying that Hernandez’s intensity seems “angry”.

Aside from reworking his mechanics, which has been an issue in the last two years, Felix has made it a priority to get back to a more comfortable weight of 224 pounds; he weighed in at about 207 in 2016.

With his weight gain -allowing him to have more power behind his throws, and his early effort in spring camp to adjust his windup, we are seeing early proof that “The King” means business in 2017.

But it’s not just Hernandez that is doing a lot of prep work to make 2017 a personal best. New addition, Yovani Gallardo, is back in good health and is planning to make a positive impact in his first season with the Mariners.

When asked about what he needs to do now that he’s healthy again, he told The News Tribune’s, Bob Dutton:

"“I know that my velocity is not where it used to be when I was first came up. It’s just a matter that you’ve got to learn how to pitch.”"

The work that Gallardo is already putting in to get better and return to his pre-injury ability, all points to a successful Gallardo in 2017.

Mariners fans will get their first taste of Gallardo’s current ability when he takes the mound for his home country of Mexico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. If he can remain intact during the MLB season warm-up, Gallardo should be in a groove by his first start in early April.

There’s a third piece to this rotation that also seems to have made it his mission to make this next year a good one. Hisashi Iwakuma, who was the only Mariners pitcher not to miss a start last year, arrived a week before the start of camp to get a jump on the 2017 season.

And his dedication to this year’s team is undeniable.

"“But this year, my priority was to pitch here [and not the WBC] and get ready here for a long season and pitch 33 games again. That’s what I chose.”"

Now that he’s carried the team once, he is poised to continue to give everything he can in his final year of his current contract before the Mariners decide if they want him to return again next offseason.

His attitude is right where it needs to be, and when Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times inquired about what we could expect from the Japanese hurler, Iwakuma said this:

"“Sixteen wins was great, but I look forward to more than that this year,” he said. “I don’t have a goal yet, but just staying healthy for an entire season and helping the team, contributing is all I think about.”"

Other reasons to believe that the rotation could be especially good also include Dipoto’s hardest worked trade to acquire Drew Smyly. Smyly is a career flyball pitcher. In the historically pitcher-friendly park of Safeco Field with a much-improved defense in the outfield, Smyly could reap the benefits of his newest home turf.

There are also high expectations for the Mariners projected number three starter, James Paxton, as he heads into his fourth big league season with the club. Last year was Paxton’s first fuller test in the majors, pitching 20 games, but like Gallardo, Paxton has faced a few injuries in the past couple years.

Mariners manager, Scott Servais, Told 710 ESPN’s Brock & Salk:

"“He really worked hard last offseason to get in good shape. He lost some weight,” Servais said. “He is not the most gifted athlete, (but) he’s got an unbelievable arm, and he’s really starting to come into his own and understanding his stuff.”"

After this past season’s effort, which in many ways was one of his best with career bests in HR/9, BB/9, and K/9, Servais thinks that this season his young Canadian pitcher is ready to take another step up the M’s ladder.

"“Pax is in a good spot. For me, getting ready to take the next step is kinda where he’s at. And we really need him, there’s no doubt.”"

These are just the expected five in the Mariners upcoming rotation. Dipoto made a concerted effort to load his team up with possible backups if anyone of the aforementioned men needs to be swapped out or goes down with an injury [knock on wood].

Ariel Miranda, who proved himself as an impressive rotation piece last September, the new addition, Chris Heston, and the up-and-coming, Rob Whalen, are all working to be ready if and when they are called upon.

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So what does this mean for the Mariners pitching numbers in 2017? Should we be preparing for an epic year of domination that hasn’t been seen in Seattle since the offensively backed league-third-lowest ERA rotation of 2001?

If all the current Mariners end up living up to expectations and are able to turn their hard work into actual results, Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton, Smyly, Gallardo and the rest of the potential starters could be better than Freddy Garcia, Aaron Sele, Jamie Moyer, Paul Abbott, John Hamala, and Joel Pineiro and crew from the 116-win 2001 M’s who had an ERA of 3.73 that lead to 80 wins.

The 2014 Mariners had a better starter’s ERA of 3.43, but they weren’t head and shoulders over most of the league like the 2001 squad was; the 2014 squad ranked 8th in ERA and won just 59 games, although that’s not just on them.

Next: Mariners Offseason Move That Broke Hearts

This 2017 expected offensive explosion could lead to big things for the rotation has been struggling to get much run support in the past decade. Now that they have it, they can put more focus on whatever they need to do to be at the best of their games.