The Mariners Face Tough Decisions This Week

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 04: Ichiro Suzuki
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 04: Ichiro Suzuki /

We made it. Opening Week is officially in the rear view mirror and the Mariners are off and running in the 2018 season. After about a month of off days within the first week, the Mariners own a 4-4 record after facing the Indians, Giants, Twins and Royals.

Now, heading into week 2 (technically week 3 but the M’s have only played a weeks worth of games) the Mariners will face some interesting decisions as players return from the DL.

First and foremost, let’s go over the Mariners current Disabled List disaster.

C Mike Zunino

DH Nelson Cruz

LF Ben Gamel

RHP Erasmo Ramirez

RHP David Phelps

1B Ryon Healy

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Broadcaster Dave Sims

We knew that Hisashi wouldn’t be ready for the reason. We learned that David Phelps would miss the entire year late in Spring Training. And we found out we wouldn’t be seeing Gamel for about the first month. Erasmo wasn’t going to be ready and Ryon Healy had only a handful of ABs in Spring Training. Mike Zunino hasn’t seen an AB this year and Nelson Cruz did a little slippin’ and slidin’ down the stairs after a monster home run.

Then, because everything else wasn’t enough, Ryon Healy sprained an ankle in the MIN weight room. And just to rub it in, broadcaster Dave Sims ruptured his Achilles playing a bit of pickup basketball with the coaching staff in MIN.

So, with all that being said, the Mariners starting 9 looks a bit different that we imagined it back at the start of spring. Ichiro was the DH in the first game in KC. Daniel Vogelbach is now your starting first basemen (Hallelujah) and Wade Leblanc is once again a Mariner. Things are set to change by this weekend however.

Let’s start with Nellie. The Mariners reported that the hope to have Cruz back when they open the home stand on Friday. There isn’t much decision to be made with his activation however as he will slot back into the DH role.

As a corresponding move, I would expect that a relief pitcher would either be sent to the DL or sent back down. Chasen Bradford was called up when Healy was placed on the DL and could be a candidate on his way back to Tacoma.

With Healy on the DL, Daniel Vogelbach figures to receive the majority of the playing time over at 1st to see if he can prove his worth. He was DHing during the absence of Cruz. It seems that he will still get his fair share of ABs even with the return of Nellie.

Once Healy comes back however, the M’s will need to make another decision on what to do at first base. This will likely be decided by how Vogey plays over the next few weeks.

It was also reported earlier today that Mike Zunino should be returning sometime this weekend. Of course, when he does return, he will be the starting catcher meaning a corresponding move will need to made.

More from SoDo Mojo

It seems likely that David Freitas will be sent back to AAA and Mike Marjama will remain the backup. Freitas would be joining Rainis SIlva, Garrett Kennedy and newly acquired Chris Herrmann in Tacoma. Tacoma will not need 4 catchers so it’s likely that a move will need to be made there as well.

Of course, it is possible that the Mariners will want to send Mike Z on a rehab assignment in Tacoma. Last week, the decided that they wanted to slow him down because they didn’t want to aggravate his oblique.

Erasmo is also rehabbing in Tacoma and should be ready to slot into the 5th starter role in the next few weeks. Originally, Ariel Miranda was going to get the start in KC.But after the game against the Twins was cancelled, everyone just got bumped back a day and Gonzales received the start instead with a need for a 5th starter postponed. It will be interesting to see how the M’s decide to work the rotation as both Erasmo and Miranda could take it as well as Rob Whalen.

Maybe the biggest return may be the return of Ben Gamel. He has been out on a rehab assignment in both Modesto and now Tacoma. When he returns, also possible this weekend or maybe the middle of next week, the Mariners are going to have to make their hardest choice.

Ichiro and Guillermo Heredia have been sharing time in Left. The M’s will not keep 5 outfielders on the 25-man, especially when Andrew Romine has some outfield experience.

Guillermo is a much better defender than the Mariners legend. However, releasing Ichiro is no easy task. The fan base has loved the return of Ichiro. I can speak firsthand when I say that the loudest the fans have been this season in Safeco Field is whenever Ichiro steps to the plate. He also made an incredible home run saving catch in the second game of the season and it may have been one of the coolest things I have seen in person at a baseball stadium.

From a revenue standpoint, keeping Ichiro also looks like the best plan because he is a ticket seller. People come to Safeco to see him. Even if he plays like his age, he is one of the most beloved players in Mariners history. Teams don’t often get rid of Franchise icons. Defensively, Ichiro hasn’t been great however he hasn’t been awful at the plate, hitting .263 coming into the game on Monday.

Guillermo Heredia played well before an awful second half in 2017 due in large part to a shoulder injury. After working his way back in Spring, Guillermo would usually be again slotted for the 4th outfielder spot if it wasn’t for Ichiro. Coming into the game on Monday, Heredia was hitting.286 with one homerun that he slugged off the foul pole against the Twins.

Who will the Mariners choose? If it came down to it, I would go with Ichiro. Maybe it’s because I want to see this thing through and I don’t want to see a messy breakup between Ichiro and the Mariners. I do believe that he is reliable at the plate. I think that, as a 4th outfielder, Ichiro is just fine.

He proved it last year with the Marlins as his numbers coming off the bench were much better than those when he got the start. He is also a veteran in the clubhouse who knows what it’s like to become a star in Seattle. Also, if the Mariners aren’t going to make the postseason, which we all know is a long shot, I am very okay with us watching Ichiro for one last season just so we have something to feel good about.

A lot of times in baseball, these sorta things have ways of working themselves out. Other players get injured and holes need to be filled with the players that we thought we would have a logjam at. If someone else was to get injured, and based on what we’ve seen this year, it almost feels like a given, then there will be an extra roster spot for any of the players mentioned above.

Next: Can the Mariners Get Off to a Fast Start in 2018?

Baseball is weird that way. But the time is coming where the Mariners are going to have to make a few cut throat decisions. Ideally, by the end of next week, we will finally get to see the Mariners at or near full strength for the first time all year. Until then, I recommend  keeping the Mariners in bubble wrap.