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2006 Mariners Preview

Finally, the Mariners opening day roster is set and opening day is tantalizingly close! Here is a quick guide with some key things to know heading in to 2006. First of all, the roster:


STARTERS
C: Kenji Johjima
1B: Richie Sexson
2B: Jose Lopez
SS: Yuniesky Betancourt
3B: Adrian Beltre
LF: Raul Ibanez
CF: Jeremy Reed
RF: Ichiro
DH: Carl Everett


BENCH
C: Guillermo Quiroz
INF/CF: Willie Bloomquist
1B: Roberto Petagine
OF: Joe Borchard


STARTING ROTATION
1. Jamie Moyer
2. Joel Pineiro
3. Jarrod Washburn
4. Gil Meche
5. Felix Hernandez


BULLPEN
Jeff Harris
Julio Mateo
Jake Woods
George Sherrill
Rafael Soriano
J.J. Putz
Eddie Guardado


Obviously, more than 25 guys will end up playing for the Mariners, so watch for these guys too:
Matt Lawton, OF: He’ll be on the squad after he serves his 10 day steroid suspension.
Mike Morse, SS/3B/OF: One of the final cuts in spring training, versatility very valuable
Chris Snelling, OF: Still recovering from an injury but when healthy has terrific hitting ability.
Rene Rivera, C: Would’ve made the team if Quiroz had not been picked up
Francisco Cruceta, P: Performed the best of all pitchers that didn’t make the squad out of spring training
Kevin Appier, P: One of three candidates to be called up if/when a starting pitcher goes down.
Jesse Foppert, P: The second candidate to come up when a starter goes down.
Clint Nageotte, P: A candidate to start, also could be used in the bullpen.


REASON FOR HOPE
As a team the Mariners had the 8th best batting average of all teams in spring training (.293), were 19th in OBP (.340), and 17th in SLG (.454). Based on those numbers, the offense was average, which may not sound exciting but really should be considering the Mariners had horrific offensive numbers in spring training the last two years and were just as bad in the regular season too. Even more promising, most of these numbers were accumulated without Adrian Beltre, who was busy slugging away for the Dominican Republic in the WBC. It appears that new hitting coach Jeff Pentland has really helped Beltre out and that he is poised for a much better year than 2005. Though this team won’t be a juggernaut on offense, many of the last couple years’ woes should finally be forgotten.


REASON FOR DESPAIR
In spring training Seattle pitching was torched, beaten, battered, bruised, mutilated, lit up, and/or destroyed, depending on which term you prefer. No matter the stat, the M’s pitchers failed miserably this spring training. ERA? 7.96, dead last in spring training. WHIP? 1.81, dead last in spring training. Opponent’s slugging percentage? .533, dead last in spring training. Walks per nine innings? 4.27, dead last in spring training. Home runs allowed? 39, tied for only sixth-worst in spring training! The few positive signs for M’s pitchers in the spring are a good groundout-to-flyout ratio and a mediocre ability to strike guys out (Seattle has been among the worst pitching staffs in baseball the last few years at strikeouts). There is no way Mariners pitchers will be as bad as this in the regular season, if only because of Safeco Field, but the spring numbers are still very alarming.


THE BOTTOM LINE
The 2006 Mariners are better than the ’05 M’s or even the ’04 M’s. They really are heading in the right direction. Felix Hernandez will be a bona fide ace in the near future and it is safe to assume that Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jeremy Reed all have their best baseball ahead of them. At the very least, this team is relatively young and will improve as opposed to being an old team that will continue to get worse, as has been the case the last few years. Seattle has finally hit rock bottom and 2006 is the start of their next ascent, hopefully all the way to the top of the baseball world. As for this year, a .500 finish is not out of the question and, considering how bad Seattle has been, an 81-81 season would have to be considered a success.