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Initiative 85

Brandon MorrowIn my last post I gave my best guess on the 25 Mariners that will be introduced come opening day, and as I said, figuring out whom the final bullpen member will be is the toughest decision the Mariners face. However, that is not the true question. Really, the issue is whether Brandon Morrow should be that guy or not. To do my best to summarize this debate, I present "Initiative 85."

INITIATIVE 85: Regarding Brandon Morrow being a member of the opening day bullpen

Statement For:
Who should be on an opening day roster? The best 25 best players a team has of course. What is the point of spring training? Obviously, to find the 25 best players a team has.

Clearly, Brandon Morrow has been one of the 25 best players in Mariners camp this year. He has only allowed one run while striking out eight in only eight and a third innings. With an upper-90s fastball and a wicked splitfinger, similar to Jonathan Papelbon and J.J. Putz's repertoire, it is easy for anyone to see why Morrow has been so effective this spring. Therefore, why is there any debate about whether Morrow should be on the team or not? All indications are that he will succeed in a Major League bullpen right now, and that he is of the Mariners' best relievers.

Prepared by: Fans of Actually Seeing High Profile Mariner Pitching Prospects Like Ryan Anderson Make the Major Leagues

Rebuttal of Statement For:
Morrow has been very impressive this spring, but as mentioned, he has only pitched in eight and a third innings. Is that really a big enough sampling size to determine how good he is, especially given how little professional experience he has? He has looked like one of the best relievers this camp, but there are tons of examples of players that overachieve in Spring Training. Is Willie Bloomquist really going to bat over .400 this season? No, but based on his spring numbers alone he could. Brandon Morrow is too big of a question mark.

Statement Against:
Brandon Morrow has electrifying stuff, and he has shown how electric it is in Spring Training. Nobody doubts his potential, or that his stuff translates well into the bullpen.

However, is it really in the best interest of the Mariners to keep him in the bullpen now? Brandon Morrow would be so much more valuable as a starter. If he were sent to the minors and allowed to develop, in a couple of years he and Felix Hernandez could be the best 1-2 starting punch in baseball, and by then young guys like Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez will have developed, and the Mariners will be on the brink of something special. This year's team looks solid, but the franchise is still building to the future. Morrow may be good now, but he can be so much better if given the chance to properly develop, and in the long run the Mariners will be much better off for it.

Prepared By: Diamond Jaxx Fanataxx

Rebuttal of Statement Against:
There are tons of examples of players who started their careers in the bullpen and went on to be great starters. Nolan Ryan comes to mind. More recently, John Smoltz went from elite closer to All-Star starter again, and this year the Cardinals are converting Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper into starters, both of whom were integral parts of their bullpen last year. The list goes on and on.


If this were a real initiative, I would have to vote no. I see Morrow's spring numbers and I am impressed, and I also believe he has the stuff right now to be a quality reliever. However, every player also has hot and cold streaks and nobody can say for sure or not if what Brandon Morrow has done this spring is what can be expected on a normal day, or on an exceptional day.

In addition, while many players have gone from the bullpen to the starting rotation, they also have much more starting experience than Brandon Morrow. Really, Morrow only has one year of starting experience in college. That's it. Even Tim Lincecum has three years worth of starts in college, and Adam Wainwright was a starter all through the minor leagues. If Morrow become a reliever now, it will impact him more than the average pitching prospect because his starting experience is so limited.

In the end, I am not convinced Morrow is one of the best Mariner relievers right now, though with his stuff he certainly could be. However, I am certain that he is much more valuable in the future as a starter, and that for him to realize that potential he needs to be starting in the minor leagues right now. I am not willing to lose some of his potential to make this year's team better, especially when I am not sure he makes the 2007 Mariners better.

M's Roster Taking Shape

Jeremy ReedToday the Mariners announced that they had re-assigned one player to minor league camp (RHP Aaron Small), and sent four others to AAA Tacoma (RHP Sean Green, LHP Eric O'Flaherty, C Rene Rivera, OF Jeremy Reed). Though the Mariners had made several cuts before today's round, no one was cut before today that was thought to have a shot at making the ballclub. Especially with the four optioned to AAA out of the picture, the opening day roster has begun to take shape. As of now, the Mariners have 33 players in camp and must be down to 25 in a matter of days. Here is who is still left (* = a player not on the 40-man roster):

Kenji Johjima (C)
Jamie Burke (C)*
Richie Sexson (1B)
Ben Broussard (1B/LF/RF)
Jose Lopez (2B)
Jose Vidro (2B/DH)
Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)
Gookie Dawkins (SS/3B)*
Rey Ordonez (SS)*
Adrian Beltre (3B)
Raul Ibanez (LF)
Ichiro (CF)
Adam Jones (CF)
Jose Guillen (RF)
Willie Bloomquist (IF/OF)
Mike Morse (IF/OF)

Felix Hernandez (RHP)
Jarrod Washburn (LHP)
Miguel Batista (RHP)
Horacio Ramirez (LHP)
Jeff Weaver (RHP)
Cesar Jimenez (LHP)
Arthur Rhodes (LHP)*
George Sherrill (LHP)
Jake Woods (LHP)
Jon Huber (RHP)
Justin Lehr (RHP)*
Mark Lowe (RHP)
Julio Mateo (RHP)
Brandon Morrow (RHP)*
J.J. Putz (RHP)
Chris Reitsma (RHP)
Sean White (RHP)

With Rene Rivera being sent down today the Mariners have only two catchers remaining in camp, which means Kenji Johjima (of course) and more surprisingly Jamie Burke will be on the ballclub by process of elimination. Sexson, Lopez, Betancourt, Beltre, Vidro, Ibanez, Ichiro, and Guillen are all locked in as starters on the club, and Willie Bloomquist was a shoo-in as a reserve at the start of the spring, but he has removed any doubt with his performance as well. So, that is a total of 11 position players with spot on the squad, and since it looks like the M's are going to carry 12 pitchers, 2 vacant reserve positions remain. Since the Mariners would probably like one of these guys to bat left-handed, Ben Broussard has likely made the ballclub because he is the only left-handed hitter among those that are not already on the ballclub. Between him and Willie Bloomquist, the Mariners have all the defensive positions covered, so they have the luxury of selecting the best player out of the pool remaining. If I were them, I would go with Mike Morse because he has the best bat of everyone left, the most versatility of anyone left, and he also is already on the 40-man roster.

Now on to the pitching staff. Hernandez, Washburn, Batista, Ramirez, and Weaver are the starting five for sure. However, the bullpen is very much up for grabs. Jake Woods figures to return to the long-relief role he filled so well last year, Chris Reitsma will be the set-up man, and Dudley-favorite Julio Mateo is sure to pitch in some crucial inning when better options are available (though I should say Mateo has looked good this spring, and I anticipate a good year from him). J.J. Putz would be a lock to make the team as well, but the Mariners may opt to put him on the DL to start the year if he is hurt bad enough. I think they won't though, so I will lightly pencil him in on the opening day roster. So, 9 of the 12 pitching spots are taken, leaving 3 to be decided between 8 hurlers. Mark Lowe can be eliminated because he is still hurt, so really there are only seven competing. Arthur Rhodes and George Sherrill should be on the club, because Hargrove really wants three lefties, especially since one (Woods) fills the long-relief role. That leaves only one position up for grabs among Jon Huber, Justin Lehr, Brandon Morrow, and Sean White. Of this quartet, Lehr has probably been the most unimpressive (though Huber is right there with him), and he is also a non-roster invitee. So, his chances of making the Mariners are slim to none.

That leaves Huber, Morrow, and White. Huber was impressive in his September call-up last year, but he has been roughed up a couple times this spring. Brandon Morrow has been dominant, and he's got the best stuff of this trio. However, he has virtually no professional experience and he's also not on the 40-man roster. As for Sean White, he has also looked good this spring and if the Mariners don't keep him they will have to return him to the Braves, since he was a Rule 5 draft pick. The last bullpen spot is easily the toughest decision the Mariners have to make, but if I were making the call I would go with Sean White, because he and Huber are relative equal in my eyes but Huber can be sent down; and also because I would prefer to see Brandon Morrow develop as a starter in the minors (plus adding Morrow would kick another guy off the 40-man roster).

So, here is who I think the 2007 Mariners will be:

Kenji Johjima, C
Richie Sexson, 1B
Jose Lopez, 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Ichiro, CF
Jose Guillen, RF
Jose Vidro, DH

Willie Bloomquist
Ben Broussard
Mike Morse
Jamie Burke

Felix Hernandez
Jarrod Washburn
Miguel Batista
Horacio Ramirez
Jeff Weaver

Jake Woods, Long Relief
Sean White, Long Relief
Julio Mateo, Middle Relief
George Sherrill, Specialty Lefty
Arthur Rhodes, Left-Handed Set-Up
Chris Reitsma, Right-Handed/Primary Set-Up
J.J. Putz, Closer

In this scenario, two non-roster invitees make the squad, so two players must be removed from the 4o-man roster. To open up one spot I would put Mark Lowe on the 60-day DL, and for the last one I would designate Sean Green for assignment. If J.J. Putz starts the year on the DL, I would call up Jon Huber, but my feeling is that the Mariners will choose Morrow instead. If Morrow is added to the roster, my guess is Travis Blackley is designated for assignment. I've often criticize Bavasi and Dudley for how they have handled the roster, but so far I like what I see. I'm scared they are going to kill Morrow's future (though I think he would be a solid reliever), but I'm even more scared they are going to keep either Rey Ordonez or Gookie Dawkins around. The M's are due for a brain freeze at some point this spring.