I know, I know, it’s going to be a LONG season, but I feel like I’ve neglected Spring Training long enough. Also, I’ve been sitting on this for a week now (taking a week off around my birthday didn’t exactly boost my productivity), so let’s do this.
Spring Training is almost over. There’s one more game in Arizona, then we go to Japan to play a couple more games against Japanese opponents, followed by two regular season games against the A’s in Japan, followed by getting our asses back to the States to play the A’s all over again. Fun!
So, what have we learned? I’m not gonna lie to you, I haven’t learned a whole lot. I’ve decided to be as willfully ignorant about this team as possible (while still keeping up appearances on the day-to-day just enough to not fall completely out of the loop). Essentially, if I may reiterate my own point from above: it’s a LONG fucking season. I have plenty of time to read about the minutiae of this fucking team.
Instead of jotting off a bunch of facts, I’ll just bring up some things that have wiggled their way into my brain. Fact-ish insemination, as it were.
Michael Saunders Is A Thing That Exists. Once again, he appears to have backed his way onto the Major League roster out of Spring Training, thanks to Franklin Gutierrez being an injury/illness magnet. Once again, he appears to have re-defined his swing to be more Major League friendly. The writers seem to be excited about Saunders, and the numbers appear to back that up. Then again, I seem to remember the writers being excited about Saunders LAST year, and look at where that got us. At this point, I don’t fucking care. I know we need him on the team because he’s the only true center fielder we have on the 40-man who’s even REMOTELY Quad-A ready, but I’m finished with his bat until he actually shows me he can do something in the regular season over a long period of time. Like, a season! Hell, like a MONTH! If he doesn’t come out of the gate this season tearing the league apart, I don’t think he will ever catch on with this team. It is literally now or never for Saunders. If he starts out batting .200 with 30 strikeouts in April, kiss Michael Saunders goodbye.
Ichiro & Figgins Are Also Things That Exist. This was THE story of Spring Training, until everybody got sick of it (and until Guti went down). Now, the story has morphed into this foregone conclusion that no one in his right mind is excited about, but what the Hell are you gonna do? Ichiro is going to bat third, Figgins is going to lead off (at least, for a while). Every once in a while, when Wedge is sick and tired of watching Figgins strike out and ground out to the second baseman, someone else (like Ackley, probably) will lead off. My guess? If Figgins can keep his on-base percentage to a respectable .350, he will get regular playing time. But, if he bats .230 and gets on base around .280, look for him to be dealt or cut before the end of May. And, I know this experiment with batting Ichiro anywhere but leadoff is stuck in Wedge’s mind like an annoying Lady Gaga song, but once Figgins is off the team, what exactly is the motivation to keep Ichiro batting third? I say he’s back in the leadoff spot before season’s end (and not just for a token few games after he announces his impending retirement).
The Mariners Have Some Terrible Catchers. I say that knowing full God damn well that Jesus Montero is both awesome and not a catcher. Miguel Olivo is still here (hopefully for his final go-around with the Mariners) and we pretty much know what to expect from the guy. Essentially, he IS what he was in 2011, no more, no less. John Jaso was once figured to be the backup (while Montero cut his teeth in the Majors as Designated Hitter), but I would be more certain of that statement if he actually, you know, got some fucking playing time in Spring Training! Is there a REASON why he’s only played in 7 games, with 14 at bats? Can I get the fucking scoop on this guy? Are we, or are we not going to keep him on the 25-man? And if we are, can we give the guy a chance to boost his hit totals from the 1 he’s thus far accumulated?
The Pitchers Are Not So Elite. There’s Felix Hernandez, and there’s every other starter. There’s Brandon League, and there’s every other reliever. When Jason Vargas is your lock at the #2 starter, you know you’re in for a mediocre season. Blake Beavan appears to have earned himself a job at the back-end of the rotation, so I guess that’s good for him, but really, who is excited about Blake Beavan? Hector Noesi will probably get every opportunity to be our 4th or 5th guy (until he’s ultimately relegated to the long relief role for which he appears destined). In the LEAST exciting (and probably least shocking) move of the Spring, you have to figure Kevin Millwood will break camp with the team. Oh joy. I can’t wait for his 5.00 ERA and his sub-.500 record to grace our lives for the first four months of the season before we trade him for another team’s nobody at the trade deadline. In what’s probably the most necessary move of the Spring, Erasmo Ramirez should break camp in the bullpen. So, that’s awesome. Let’s stunt another starter’s growth because we need a guy like Kevin Millwood’s Rotting Corpse haunting our clubhouse (if you can’t tell, I’m going to spend the bulk of the formative weeks of this season bitching about how much Kevin Millwood sucks, so be ready).
I would write more, but I have a Husky Basketball game to get to.