2009 will be the year the Mariners will have to practice one of the most important abilities a pitcher can have: a short memory. With the pitching staff and catchers reporting in a mere 40 hours, eyes will be pointed towards the future of the young starters that make up the starting rotation of the Seattle Mariners.
Ultimately, the overall season is going to depend on the one thing that this team has struggled with over the past two years: the performance of the offense (i.e. run production). Should the offense come around and bring some consistency along with it, this team may contend.
However, after 2009, Mariners fans aren't about to get their hopes up.
But what can I say? I get my hopes up for baseball every year (and who doesn't) and after a long frigid winter in the Pacific Northwest, Mariners fans are ready for their bright young starters to grow into the spectacular players they can be.
The top three of the starting rotation as I see it, is as follows:
King Felix. He's been showing us off and on his royal dominance that he's been able to dole out to the likes of the Red Sox.
With another year under his belt he can bring down both his losses and ERA, and hopefully the team can score Felix some runs to reduce the number of no decisions (11 in 2009). Felix will throw the first pitch against the Twins, and continue to lead the staff with his fiery competitive nature.
Erik, Erik, Erik. This lefty has the potential to return to winning 10-15 games as he did with the Orioles in '06 and '07. Bedard had trouble pitching through the sixth inning in 2009 and if he can regain some stamina (or have a higher threshold for pain...?) Erik can be spectacular. He's gotta learn to pitch into the seventh and eighth, though.
I'm with Nolan Ryan on this one. Take the pitch counter out of Safeco and pitch him to or past 100 pitches as long as he's still doing well. Erik can do well if he wants to this season.
Morrow's dyn-o-mite opening performance against the Yankees, not to mention his dominance as a closer while J.J. Putz was injured, is why he will step into the third starting role.
He still has a ways to go to become a polished starter but if he can utilize his off-speed pitches and his control he will be able to put up Felix-like numbers in the near future.
No. 4 and No. 5.?
Closing out the rotation could be any of the other four potential starters in Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva, Garrett Olson, and/or Ryan Rowland-Smith. As for Miguel Batista—NO.
Rowland-Smith has potential and showed the ability to go six to seven innings per game with mixed results. Rowland-Smith may be able to push Jarrod Washburn back to a solid starter and any competition between the two will bring up the level of both their games.
Carlos Silva is coming off of a 4-15 season, going 1-15 after April ended. Reports say he's slimmed down and should live up to his pre-2009 reputation as an inning-eater. Carlos may be able to compete with newcomer Garrett Olson for a starting spot.
In any case Manager Don Wakamatsu will be juggling the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation to try and support the top three spots. I'm hoping Wakamatsu can get everybody to start competing in games, even if the season looks bleak.
To all the rest of the Mariners hopefuls out there, expect great seasons from the top three of the rotation. The thing I keep telling my quite pessimistic in-laws is what Journey tells us to do time and time again: Don't stop believing.
Ah yes, and bring Griffey back!