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Mariners start 2011 season with a major shuffle

Ichiro stretching-final.jpg
Lenny Ignelzi
Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki stretches before a spring training game in Arizona last month. Art Thiel says Ichiro is the only player to be starting in the same position he played last year, as the Mariners shuffle things around.

The Mariners are making some changes to their starting lineup as the 2011 season gets underway. Will it bring them better luck than last year's losing season?

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel is skeptical, but he says there are some bright spots coming out of spring training.

The Mariners have shifted just about everyone around. Art says the only player in the same position this year that he was consistently in last year is right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

Mariners 2011 Starting Lineup

  • Catcher - Miguel Olivo: A journeyman catcher who's returning to the Mariners after playing parts of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the team.
  • First base - Justin Smoak: The key player in the Cliff Lee trade to Texas last year. He spent last season in the minor league.
  • Second base - Jack Wilson: Played shortstop last year and has never played second base in his career.
  • Shortstop - Brendan Ryan: A new acquisition from the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Third base - Chone Figgins: Played second base last year but Art says third base is a more natural fit.
  • Left field - Milton Bradley: Art says he played less than half the season last year due to injuries and emotional problems, but he led the team in RBIs in spring training.
  • Center field - Michael Saunders: Filled in last year and is filling in at center field for Franklin Gutierrez, who starts the season on the disabled list due to ongoing stomach problems.
  • Right field - Ichiro Suzuki
  • Designated hitter - Jack Cust: New acquisition from Oakland who Art says actually CAN hit.

Pitchers Look Promising

Art says Felix Hernadez looked great in spring training, after winning the American League Cy Young Award last year. Eric Bedard also pitched very well this spring, despite three shoulder surgeries. Art says if Bedard can stay healthy, he'll be an asset. And Art is excited about rookie pitcher Michael Pineda, whom he calls "the next Felix." Mariners closer David Aardsma is starting the season on the disabled list.

A lot of "Ifs" to Start the Season

Art says Mariners fans are going to have to wait and see if all the shuffling the team has done will actually be worth it. He says, defensively, they should be pretty good. It's at the plate where he's worried they won't be able to deliver the power needed to score lots of runs. But he says there are definitely reasons for fans to be cautiously optimistic.

"It could be (that) Pineda and Hernandez and Ichiro are three guys to keep people warm in this early season of frigid temperatures at Safeco Field."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.

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