Into another rebuilding year for the Seattle Mariners, who find themselves yet again trying to prove that they still belong among the elite. However quickly they may have faded after their 2001 miracle year, their still is hope; as is with the Mariner's new motto for the upcoming season, "A new day, a new way."
After having faltered last year, the Seattle Mariners will have to bounce back from what can be a forgettable season to have a new way. Here is my run down of players that can and could possible contribute and players that will have to prove their work in Spring Training to be tabbed for the 25 man roster on Opening Day.
Erik Bedard: After being traded and hailed as the answer to get the Mariners over the hump and back into the playoffs, he tripped up big time. Sure, he was somewhat consistent while he pitched, working an average of five innings and a 4.74 ERA. There is obvious room for improvement.
I don't think that being named Opening Day starter early in Spring Training last year helped ease any pressure. This year, Bedard has every reason to bounce back and be the pitcher that his potential has shown.
In the last year before free agency, Bedard must prove that he is worth pay increase for the future, which in turn should help the Mariners improve as well. Bedard should be the No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez.
Carlos Silva: reportedly having lost 30 pounds this past Winter, Silva seems to be in a "lighter" mood and ready to go for 2009. A huge disappointment after last years contract signing, Silva has a low 90s sinker, and a low 80s change up and a slider he rarely uses. I think that to be an effective three or four starter, he should develop a fourth pitch.
Felix Hernandez: By far the best pitcher of the Mariners' staff last season even with a 9-11 record and 3.45 ERA. Felix was also at the low end of run support from the offense which didn't help either. Felix's fastball can reach into the high 90s and has even been clocked at 100mph.
He has a devastating curve that can really throw hitters off balance and a change-up that complements well. There is no reason to that if the offense bounces back, that Hernandez can regain his form from his 14-7 record of 2007 or better.
Jared Washburn: Is a strong candidate for an end of the rotation starter. He is quickly loosing his step. He continues to leave pitches over the plate too often and gets abused from it. But when he is on, he can definitely pitch with some of the best.
Miguel Batista: I'll say it now, if I was the General Manager, I would find any and all means to trade Miguel Batista, even if it means eating another contract, if just to switch things up. He is definetley not worth that $9 million dollar salary. The second worst signing of the Bill Bavasi era. 'Nough said!
Brendon Marrow: He has an overpowering fastball that sees a lot of bats swing and miss. When he was drafted ahead of several other much better prospects at the time (Lincecum, Miller) there was much speculation.
But consider that Marrow was also picked ahead of Joba Chaimberlain, and in my opinion he has out-pitched Joba. Marrow has show flashes of greatness, as evidence of his almost no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 2007. But he still has a lot to learn, and he will need to improve his stamina to be an top notch starter.
As for the bullpen, it would suit the Mariners better to pick a closer from the start and see where things go. To have people's roles defined going into the season give's players a better chance for daily game preparations in my opinion.
Miguel Batista has the most closing experience, but Tyler Walker and Mark Lowe could also be candidates to grab the spot. Tyler Walker will have to keep his ERA down, and Mark Lowe will have to really step it up this year. Several pitchers are also going into Spring Training with a shot at cracking the starting rotation including David Aardsma and Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Here's my starting rotation, take it or leave it: 1) Felix Hernandez 2) Erik Bedard 3) Brandon Marrow 4) Jarred Washburn 5) Carlos Silva. We'll see how it goes.