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New Players Promising But Injuries Plague Mariners At Start Of Season

Eric Christian Smith
AP Photo
Houston Astros' George Springer is tagged out by Mariners shortstop Jean Segura while attempting to steal second during the third inning of a game, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Houston.

The Mariners play their home opener on Monday afternoon at Safeco Field. They started the season on the road with some new faces and some new injuries.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick about the team’s chances this season.

Offseason Objectives

Thiel said the Mariners made a lot of changes in the offseason.

"They had to get younger, faster, more athletic, less reliant on starting pitching and the home run, and make a stronger bullpen so that you didn't strain starting pitching.

"They did a decent enough job filling some spots but it's really going to be high adventure because there's not a lot of depth backing them up."

How Do They Look?

"They filled two key positions: the corner outfield spots.," Thiel continued. "They were really struggling with it last year.

"In right field, they've got a rookie, Mitch Haniger, who lit it up in spring training. Everybody was very excited about his performance at the plate. And he's a good athlete in right field.

"In left field, they have Jarrod Dyson, who is 32 years old, has been the fourth outfielder for the Kansas City Royals for several years, and he is really, really fast. His athleticism in the field and on the bases is a real asset - something that the Mariners haven't had.

"The highlight of the Mariner offseason was the acquisition from Arizona of Jean Segura. He came over, along with Haniger, in the trade with the Diamondbacks for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte.

"Segura is a real-deal, top-of-the-lineup guy, hits .280, fields his position well. A very solid acquisition."

Pitching May Be A Problem

"They also added several relief pitchers that makes for a sturdier bullpen if these guys can get healthy," Thiel said. "They started with three relievers on the disabled list entering the season. That's going to be a difficult thing if they don't get healthy.

"But the real weakness in this team is the starting rotation. Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton all had some health issues last year. If they're all healthy, it's going to be pretty good.

"But the No. 4 guy, a new guy they acquired, Drew Smyly, is already on the 60-day disabled list. That was a big blow for this team starting the season.

"And the fifth guy, Yovani Gallardo, is a journeyman. He had an ERA over 5 last year and I don't see any miracles being worked with him.

"Those five pitchers in the rotation all have question marks. And that's really a vulnerability for a Major League Baseball team."

Improve On 86 Wins?

Thiel noted the Mariners had 86 wins last season and just missed the playoffs.

"If they have good health with all the position players and the five in the rotation, they can improve incrementally - 87, 88, if they get lucky - 90," he said.

"But, already, they're not lucky with Smyly down and the relief pitching not where they want it to be.

"It's really going to be hard to get better than 86. If they do, they're going to be at the edge of the wildcard again. I think they could get that, ending that 16-year [playoff] drought.

"But, really, there's not a lot of depth on this team. If other people go down besides Drew Smyly, it's going to be a struggle to get back to 86."

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You can also find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
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.