Now that the regular season is less than three weeks away where pretty much know who the nine regulars are going to be in the lineup. Manager Scott Servais mentioned that the Mariners may start the season with eight relief pitchers which mean that the team will go with one utility player who can play the outfield well as the infield and Danny Valencia will play outfield along with first base. If that is the case he would play right field and Mitch Haniger be shifted to left field when they are in the lineup at the same time. The utility player will have to feel comfortable at first base along with playing a good shortstop.
The infield of the Mariners will not get many days off early in the season. We know that second base and third have been stable for a few years and now with Jean Segura on board so will shortstop. Segura has been playing great ball for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic so he will be looking to play almost as often as Seager and Cano. Daniel Vogelbach looks to be playing a lot at first base as well. Valencia though will be able to back him and Seager along with right field. Valencia will probably play first base against tough left handed pitchers while Vogelbach will spend some time in the lineup against other lefties. This will depend on how often the Mariners will play against lefties.
This year without guys like Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez on the Mariners I don’t see them doing a lot of pinch hitting. I think it is a good thing because I thought the last couple years the Mariners have pinch hit too often. Most of the time it was because of platooning and I don’t think pinch hitting is that successful most of the time. I saw at times where the Mariners would pinch hit with no runners on base and I think it only makes sense when runners are actually on base.
The outfield looks to play almost every day as well early on in the season. Jarrod Dyson will start in left field, Leonys Martin in center and Mitch Haniger in right most of the time. Dyson may not start against tough left handed pitchers. In some cases Martin may not either. If that is the case the Mariners may have Haniger starting in center field.
The main reason Servais is looking to go with eight relievers because Steve Cishek will start the season on the disabled list and Shae Simmons who recently got hurt may not be ready either so Evan Scribner and Nick Vincent are the two right handed relievers expected out of the bullpen first thing. Servais doesn’t want to over use them and will need to have more right handed relievers available. If they do decide to stick with seven relievers instead the left handed relievers may face more right handed hitters.
I see that a lot of Mariner fans have mixed emotions when it comes to Mike Zunino and the catching position. I expect early on in April that Zunino will likely catch almost every day while Carlos Ruiz will see action about once a week. Depending on how Zunino performs especially at the plate that could expand to two games a week. Zunino has learned to take more walks and we hope that will continue into this season. It is important that he lays off the breaking pitches he has had trouble with since playing with the Mariners.
I am sure we all look forward to having a steady lineup for the Mariners and not seeing changes in the lineup so often. Dyson will lead off followed by Segura then Cano, Cruz, Seager, Vogelbach, Haniger, Zunino and Martin. Segura probably leads off when Dyson isn’t in the lineup. Go M’s.