Mariners Spring Training quick hits

Mariners Spring Training quick hits

2007 record
88-64, Second in AL West, six games behind L.A. Angels

Projected batting order
1. CF Ichiro Suzuki:
  .351 BA, .396 OBP, .431 SLG, 6 HR, 68 RBI in 2007
2. SS Yuniesky Betancourt:
  .289 BA, .308 OBP, .418 SLG, 9 HR, 67 RBI in 2007
3. LF Raul Ibanez:
  .291 BA, ..351 OBP, .480 SLG, 21 HR, 105 RBI in 2007
4. 3B Adrian Beltre:
  .276 BA, ..319 OBP, .482 SLG, 26 HR, 99 RBI in 2007
5. 1B Richie Sexson:
  .205 BA, .295 OBP, .399 SLG, 21 HR, 63 RBI in 2007
6. C Kenji Johjima:
  .287 BA, .322 OBP, .433 SLG, 14 HR, 61 RBI in 2007
7. RF Brad Wilkerson:
  .234 BA, .319 OBP, .467 SLG, 20 HR, 62 RBI in 2007
8. DH Jose Vidro:
  .314 BA, .381 OBP, .394 SLG, 6 HR, 59 RBI in 2007
9. 2B Jose Lopez:
  .252 BA, .284 OBP, .355 SLG, 11 HR, 62 RBI in 2007

Projected rotation
1. Felix Hernandez, 14-7, 3.92 ERA in 2007
2. Erik Bedard, 13-5, 3.16 ERA in 2007
3. Miguel Batista, 16-11, 4.29 ERA in 2007
4. Carlos Silva, 13-14, 4.19 ERA in 2007
5. Jarrod Washburn, 10-15, 4.32 ERA in 2007

Projected bullpen
Closer: J.J. Putz, 40/42 saves, 1.38 ERA in 2007
RH setup man: Brandon Morrow, 3-4, 4.12 ERA in 2007
LH setup man: Arthur Rhodes, did not play in 2007

The new guys
Erik Bedard: The veteran lefty acquired from the Orioles gives the Mariners one of the best one-two punches in the American League at the top of the rotation. Bedard surrendered just 141 hits in 182 innings last season and struck out 221. He has completely healed from a strained oblique muscle, which ended his season on Aug. 25, and seemingly would fit in well with spacious Safeco Field.

Brad Wilkerson: With Adam Jones gone, Wilkerson becomes a leading candidate to play right field. With a lineup that is predominately right-handed, Wilkerson gives it some balance from the left side and he has enough power to hammer at least 20-25 home runs. He also plays first base.

Miguel Cairo: The versatile veteran with experience at three infield positions gives manager John McLaren even more flexibility. His four years of postseason play will hopefully rub off on the likes of shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and second baseman Jose Lopez. He could see more time at second than anywhere else if Lopez doesn't shape up and keep his head in the game at all times.

Carlos Silva: After hitting the jackpot with right-handed starter Miguel Batista on the free-agent market last season, the Mariners are hoping it works out that way again this season. Silva is an innings-eater and that's something Seattle desperately needs to keep a quality bullpen at the top of its game.

R.A. Dickey: A former high Draft pick that relied on velocity has changed his game the past few years, developing a knuckleball that made him the best second-half pitcher at the Triple-A level last season, prompting the Mariners to select him in the Rule 5 Draft. Dickey is a candidate for the fifth starting spot or the right-handed long reliever.

Prospects to watch
Jeff Clement: The organization's first-round Draft choice in 2005 displayed a power stroke in September, clubbing a couple of late-game home runs. The left-handed hitter is a perfect fit for Safeco Field, which favors lefty sluggers. Most of his playing time figures to be as the designated hitter or pinch-hitter.

Wladimir Balentien: He has been a productive hitter throughout his professional career and his first big league hit was a pinch-hit double at Yankee Stadium. He also hit a home run and delivered a sacrifice fly in his four late-season at-bats. With an option left, he probably will start the season at Triple-A Tacoma, where he batted .291, hit 24 home runs and drove in 84 runs last season.

Bryan LaHair: He doesn't possess the power you would like from a corner infielder, but the 25-year-old has a sweet swing, hits for a good average and had an impressive showing last spring, batting .387 in 12 Cactus League games. His immediate future could depend on how well Richie Sexson performs coming out of the gate, but pencil him in as the future first sacker.

Returning from injury
Mark Lowe: He missed practically the entire first half and the final month of the 2007 season following surgery. But he has recovered and could vie for the important eight-inning setup position in the bullpen. Lowe made the jump from Double-A to the Majors in 2006, thanks to a mid-90s fastball and excellent control, striking out 20 and walking just nine batters in his first 18 2/3 innings.

Arthur Rhodes: A non-roster invitee last season, Rhodes had a splendid camp and earned a spot on the 12-man pitching staff that started the season. But an elbow injury that eventually led to ligament replacement surgery sidelined him for the entire season.

On the rebound
Richie Sexson: The heat is on for the slugger who enters the final year of his four-year contract. Fans got all over him last season when things sent bad and it could be even worse in '08. A notoriously slow starter, Sexson can't afford another tortoise-like beginning this season.

Jose Lopez: Lack of focus, especially on defense, the past two seasons has the Mariners brass perplexed. Lopez has a lot of talent and was selected to the 2006 AL All-Star team as a reserve, but his concentration wavers. Signing Cairo could help push Lopez's game up a notch or two.

Long gone
Jeff Weaver: One forgettable season in Seattle was more than enough for Mariners fans, who agonized over the right-hander's performance, basically from start to finish. After helping to pitch the Cardinals to a World Series title in 2006, Weaver did his part to make sure there was no postseason at Safeco Field in '07.

Jose Guillen: A large chunk of the Mariners' vastly improved offense last season must be replaced because of Guillen's departure via free agency to the Royals. Guillen provided Seattle with 23 home runs, 99 RBIs, a strong arm in right field and a steady hand in the clubhouse, where he was one of the team leaders. That's a lot to ask anyone to make up.

Adam Jones: The organization's top Draft pick in 2003, and most prized Minor League prospect, was sent to the Orioles in the Bedard trade. Jones is regarded as a five-tool player and could develop into an All-Star, but Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi decided Seattle has a better chance to win the AL West in 2008 with Bedard pitching every fifth day than Jones playing every day.

George Sherrill: A bullpen workhorse the past two seasons, appearing in 72 games in 2006 and 73 in '07, Sherrill could be sorely missed. He provided excellent late-inning setup relief for closer J.J. Putz, averaged 11.04 strikeouts per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .179 average -- third lowest among AL relievers.

2007 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Ichiro, .351
OBP: Ichiro, .396
SLG: Beltre, .482
Runs: Ichiro, 111
RBIs: Ibanez, 105
Hits: Ichiro, 238
2B: Beltre, 41
3B: Ichiro, 7
HR: Beltre, 26
SB: Ichiro, 37
2007 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Washburn, 193 2/3
W: Batista, 16
L: Washburn, 15
Win %: O'Flaherty, .875 (7-1)
S: Putz, 1.38
ERA: Putz, 1.38
K: Hernandez, 165
K/9: Putz, 10.30
WHIP: Putz, 0.70

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. Even if they pitch well, will the starters pitch enough innings?
This is the real concern about the rotation, which ranked 10th in the American League last season with 928 2/3 innings. It took a heavy toll on the bullpen late in the season, when the Mariners fell out of the AL West race and then the Wild Card chase. Adding Silva and Bedard figures to help a lot, but Jarrod Washburn must be more consistent.

POLL
Who should bat second behind Ichiro Suzuki?
Adrian Beltre
Yuniesky Betancourt
Jose Lopez
Kenji Johjima
Jose Vidro
2. How much can Sexson contribute to the offense?
Without left-handed-hitting Ben Broussard around for insurance, the Mariners need a much better season from Sexson than they received in 2007, when he batted a career-low .205 and drove in just 63 runs. This is the final year of the contract Sexson signed prior to the 2005 season and a strong comeback season would be in both his and the team's best interests.

3. Can the Mariners carry three catchers?
The probable answer to this one is no. Kenji Johjima and Jamie Burke, health willing, will start the season on the 25-man roster ahead of up-and-coming Clement, who could be better off getting regular playing time in the Minors than occasional playing time with Seattle.

The bottom line
More than anything, the Mariners must put together a dependable starting rotation, one that consists of pitchers that throw strikes, put the ball in play so the team's extraordinary defense can do its thing and gets the game at least into the sixth or seventh innings more times than not.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.