Hey, remember Joe Saunders? Well, he’s back, only he’s not on a guaranteed deal and he’s looking to break back into the club via the bullpen. You know, that group of kickass pitchers where we’re overflowing with talent?
Okay, so I’m using the word “interesting” very loosely in this case. But, Joe Saunders COULD be interesting, if he’s used as a lefty specialist. I believe in no way, shape, or form, will he make our roster out of Spring Training. But, as with all good depth, it might not be a bad idea to keep him around in Tacoma to start. If injuries come up in the first couple months, or if he’s simply pitching so well that he forces his way onto the roster, at least we’ll have him. The only thing is, since he’s not a young player with options, once he’s called up to the Major Leagues, he has to be put on the 40-man roster and we can’t send him back down to the minors unless he clears waivers and agrees to the assignment. So, you know, he’s the pitching equivalent to Endy Chavez, only with less assurance that he’s eventually going to be playing in Seattle again.
Speaking of: Endy Chavez is back! As far as security blankets go, we could do worse. He comes to Spring Training, gets his work in, plays in Tacoma for a month or so, then gets called up for bench depth. That’s been the routine, anyway. This year, it might be tough. With Ruggiano and Weeks as our outfield backups, someone out there is either going to have to struggle mightily or get injured. Since no one named Michael Saunders is on this team anymore, it’s less likely we’re guaranteed to have that spot open up due to injury. Nevertheless, what are the odds all five of our outfielders come in here and remain effective? I’m banking on seeing Endy Chavez in a Mariners uniform before the 2015 season ends. Our best-case scenario is we never have to pull the cord and Chavez uses an escape clause in his contract to seek employment elsewhere.
Speaking of injured outfielders: Franklin Gutierrez is back! Bet you never thought you’d see Guti back as a non-roster invitee, did ya? And, yet, here we are. I’m not going to put any expectations on him, but I hope he’s healthy and able to play a full year. Truth be told, he could be an interesting guy to have roaming the outfield in Tacoma. If he IS healthy and able to stay that way, and if he finds that old spark he had when he was a star with us back in the day, I like his potential as right-handed depth who’s capable of fielding well and produce some pop. That’ll always be the dream, but of course I won’t be holding my breath.
John Baker is a veteran backup catcher who you figure has to be in the running to back up Zunino. Jesus Sucre isn’t the be-all, end-all, though his defense is superb. I imagine Sucre still has options. So, if Baker is able to give us ANYTHING at the plate, I feel like the Mariners at least have to entertain the notion of keeping him up here. As it stands, Sucre is a fucking black hole at the plate, which has to make it difficult to want to ever sit Zunino.
Mark Lowe is back, trying to get his career going again. My gut tells me that he doesn’t have as much on his fastball as he did when he was throwing smoke for us way back when. No way he cracks the Opening Day roster, and the odds might even be against him sticking in Tacoma, but we’ll see.
Rafael Perez is a guy who hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2012. He’s a veteran out of the Indians organization who had a really swell run from 2007-2011. Here’s a more interesting guy who might actually have an outside shot at the Opening Day roster if he dazzles in March. It’ll be interesting to see him work this month. Worst case scenario is we keep him on our big league roster – temporarily displacing one of our younger arms, who can easily be stashed in Tacoma for a rainy day – and he doesn’t work out. Then, we just call up our young arm and relatively little harm is done. These comeback players don’t usually have a super-long leash, especially when you’re a team with visions of playoff contention.
The final two interesting non-roster guys are D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan. Both players got their feet wet in AA last year and both of them are very promising first base prospects. Peterson probably moreso, but to date I’ve still yet to hear anything about him getting reps at first (his natural position is third base, which is obviously blocked by Kyle Seager). Neither of these guys figure to make the roster. BUT, a positive showing in spring, and continued progression should see them break through into AAA. From there, it’s a hop and a skip to a September call-up. You like seeing these guys get experience with the big league training camp and hopefully they’re able to make the most of it. I want to hear good things this month that stick in all of our minds going forward. After all, LoMo isn’t forever. Gotta figure SOMEONE out there will be able to get that taste of Smoak out of our mouths.