So even though Zunino homered in his fifth straight game Monday -- with two bombs in Albuquerque -- and was named Pacific Coast League Player of the Week after hitting .441 his previous eight outings, I'm sure they'll stick with that plan. Chris Iannetta is performing very well for the Mariners and it wouldn't help Zunino's long-term development to promote him and then only let him play sporadically in a backup role or see him struggle again and yo-yo him back to the Minors. So as long as Iannetta stays healthy and productive, I wouldn't expect to see Zunino until after the All-Star break at the earliest, even if he continues looking like Johnny Bench in the PCL.
This is exactly what the Mariners wanted to see from their 2012 first-round Draft pick, but they'll want to see it over a longer haul, believing Zunino's previous big-league struggles were the result of getting rushed too quickly through the Minor League system.
We all know what Kyle Seager is capable of, but with his struggles early this year when do you think it's time to start platooning him more against righties and play Luis Sardinas against lefties until his confidence is back?
Jeff S., Auburn, Wash.
Seager is off to a rough start, hitting .119 in his first 11 games. But he's a guy who has had slow starts before and then turned things around very quickly. He hit .185 his first seven games last year, then caught fire. He hit .156 his first 19 games in 2014 before going on a tear.
Seager understands his swing as well as anybody and generally just needs to be allowed to work through things. He doesn't lack confidence, he just needs to get his timing down, which requires playing. As for platooning, I don't see it happening. Seager has a career .703 OPS vs. lefties and .788 vs. righties. Sardinas has a career OPS of .680 vs. lefties and .508 against righties. They just need to get Seager back to being Seager and let Sardinas handle the utility role.
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What do you think about Adam Lind's current hitting skid?
Heather F., Oshawa, Ontario.
Much like Seager, Lind needs to get untracked and history says he will definitely crush right-handed pitching. His career OPS of .859 vs. righties compared to .585 against lefties makes him an obvious platoon candidate. The Mariners faced a ton of southpaws to start the year and Lind hasn't looked comfortable yet while hitting .172 in 29 at-bats, but they'll see right-handed starters in five of the remaining six games on this road trip, so this should be a good chance for Lind to get rolling.
Observationally, infield shifts have cost the Mariners some outs thus far. Of course it's only highlighted when it fails. Is there any anecdotal or statistical evidence available to compare the success, as well as the structure, of Mariners shifting?
Sam S., State College, Penn.
The only statistical data I've seen so far concerns how much the Mariners have shifted, as they've gone from the American League team that shifted the least in 2015 to third in the league in shifting in the early going behind only the Angels and Astros. It's inevitable that hitters will beat the shift at times, but the theory obviously is to improve the defense's odds by placing defenders where opposing hitters most frequently put the ball in play.
Manager Scott Servais said the Mariners won far more than they lost with the shift in Spring Training, but it will be interesting to see how that tracks out now during the regular season. A lot of that is judgmental, obviously, as you can only make an educated guess as to whether a standard defense or shifted defense would make a play that otherwise would go the other way.
Call me crazy, but I'm not concerned about Wade Miley based on what I've seen so far. What's your take?
Allen B., Seattle.
Would agree on that. Miley's 8.25 ERA isn't good, but he's been bit by three-run homers by Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre in his two starts against the Rangers and that can skew things in a hurry. He obviously needs to eliminate the long ball, but Fielder hit a mistake and Beltre just golfed a tough pitch. I look at 14 strikeouts and no walks in 12 innings and a fly ball pitcher who should fare well in Safeco and expect Miley to be pretty solid over the long haul this season.
With D.J. Peterson having a tough year at the plate last season, who would be the Mariners backup third baseman should Seager need a day off or have an injury?
Rick O., Elma, Wash.
Peterson has been playing strictly first base this season for Double-A Jackson and is again struggling early with a .175 average in his first 10 games. Sardinas is the short-term backup for Seager as the utility man, though if they needed long-term help I expect they'd promote veteran Ed Lucas from Tacoma.
Are you concerned by Felix Hernandez's declining velocity on his fastball?
Frank B., Port Orchard, Wash.
This seems to be an annual question as Hernandez's velocity has been gradually dropping over the last five or six years with very little change in his effectiveness, thanks to his tremendous off-speed pitches and guile. I'm more curious about his command issues -- 13 walks in 18 innings -- though he's managed a 1.00 ERA in three starts. If declining velocity is making him overly cautious about throwing his fastball for strikes, that would be a concern. He says his lack of command is merely a mechanical issue at this point and he'll clear it up, which seems reasonable given his track record. But that does bear watching.