So it's begun.
This young Mariners team had high hopes coming into spring training. Though the spirits may still be high, they definitely took a hit when Franklin Gutierrez partially tore his right pectoral muscle warming up on Tuesday.
The injury will cost him at least four weeks of the season, if not more. Coming off a season where his IBS syndrome only allowed him to play in 92 games, Guti was looking great. He added about 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and was hoping to put last year in the rear view mirror. The Mariners and him were both hoping he could get back to his 2009 numbers where he batted .283 with 18 homers and 70 RBI. After taking the team ace Felix Hernandez deep a couple days before, it looked like he might just be on track to do that.
So with that potential impact bat and his stellar, Gold Glove defense out of the lineup for at least the opening month, what will be in store for the M's?
With Gutierrez being out so much last season the Mariners pretty much had open tryouts to see who could hold down the spot. Unfortunately, there were no clear-cut winners. Michael Saunders did outstanding defensive wise, but his struggles at the plate landed him a trip back to AAA Tacoma. After playing in 204 career games and only sporting a .196 batting average, Saunders will have to truly impress in camp to win the starting job, let alone a spot on the active roster.
Trayvon Robinson will also get a chance to win the starting spot and is probably the favorite due to his athleticism and potential. Though his numbers (.210 BA, two home runs, 14 RBI) weren't all that impressive in 44 games last season, they don't show how good he is/can be. There was a lot of excitement surrounding this young man when the M's acquired him in the midseason trade for Bedard. If he learns to be more patient at the plate, he could earn more playing time in the long run.
Another option would be Casper Wells, but he's more of a corner outfield guy so that's not as likely. It's possible that Ichiro gets some playing time in center so Wells can play in right, where he likes to be.
Eric Wedge might instead choose to move leadoff man Chone Figgins to the outfield, which would open up opportunities at third base for a few young guys until Gutierrez gets back.
The season isn't even here yet and Seattle is already having to deal with adversity. How they bounce back from this ordeal could really reveal just what this team is made of. With as much young talent and camaraderie as the M's have, it could be something special.