SEATTLE -- As MLB.com counts down the days until Mariners pitchers and catchers report on Friday, here's Part 5 of the series leading up to camp. Here we project a starting lineup and how the pitching should roll out this season for Seattle.
Of course, such projections come with large asterisks. Lots of things can and will happen once Spring Training opens in Peoria, Ariz., and the Cactus League stadiums around Phoenix. Competitions at several spots certainly can't be predicted before bats and balls are even picked up by the 59 players who'll take part in the Mariners' Major League camp.
So while we've penciled Brad Miller in at shortstop, that job just as easily could go to Chris Taylor as the two youngsters are regarded as close to dead even by manager Lloyd McClendon and general manager Jack Zduriencik.
We're listing left-handed-hitting Seth Smith as the starting right fielder, which is a good guess for Opening Day on April 6 at Safeco Field since Seattle likely will face Angels right-hander Jered Weaver. But right-handed-hitting Justin Ruggiano likely will get the nod against southpaws, if things fall into place as expected.
And picking a fifth starter between Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias is a coin flip at this point. We went with Walker, based on his high upside, but Elias started 29 games -- and was a 10-game winner -- last year as a rookie and just as easily could be regarded as the favorite based on 2014's performance.
Same thing goes in selecting the primary setup men in a bullpen that returns just about everyone from a group that was strong and deep last season. And, of course, all it takes is one injury in the coming seven weeks to shuffle the deck at any one of the positions on the squad.
That's why depth is critical and this club seems to have much more of that than previous Seattle teams, particularly now with the addition of Rickie Weeks, who provides a solid right-handed bat off the bench and could team with versatile utility man Willie Bloomquist to give McClendon a variety of options.
The fun begins Saturday when pitchers and catchers take the field for the first time, with the initial full-squad workout set for Feb. 25. But for now, here's an idea of how things project heading into camp: