Camp to determine starting shortstop, final rotation spot

Smith, Ruggiano likely to split right-field duties

Camp to determine starting shortstop, final rotation spot

SEATTLE -- As 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.

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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.

Outlook: Walker, SP, SEA

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:

2014 record
87-75, third in the AL West

Projected batting order
1. CF Austin Jackson:
.256 BA, .308 OBP, .347 SLG, 4 HR, 47 RBIs in 2014
2. RF Smith:
.266 BA, .367 OBP, .440 SLG, 12 HR, 48 RBIs
3. 2B Robinson Cano:
.314 BA, .382 OBP, .454 SLG, 14 HR, 82 RBIs
4. DH Nelson Cruz:
.271 BA, .333 OBP, .525 SLG, 40 HR, 108 RBIs
5. 3B Kyle Seager:
.268 BA, .334 OBP, .454 SLG, 25 HR, 96 RBIs
6. 1B Logan Morrison:
.262 BA, .315 OBP, .420 SLG, 11 HR, 38 RBIs
7. LF Dustin Ackley:
.245 BA, .293 OBP, .398 SLG, 14 HR, 65 RBIs
8. C Mike Zunino:
.199 BA, .254 OBP, .404 SLG, 22 HR, 60 RBIs
9. SS Miller:
.221 BA, .288 OBP, .365 SLG, 10 HR, 36 RBIs

Projected rotation
1. RH Felix Hernandez: 15-6, 2.14 ERA in 2014
2. RH Hisashi Iwakuma: 15-9, 3.52 ERA
3. LH James Paxton: 6-4, 3.04 ERA
4. LH J.A. Happ: 11-11, 4.22 ERA
5. RH Walker: 2-3, 2.61 ERA

Projected bullpen
Closer: Fernando Rodney: 48/51 saves, 2.85 ERA in 2014
RH setup man: Danny Farquhar: 2.66 ERA
LH setup man: Charlie Furbush: 3.61 ERA

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.