Seattle Mariners 2009 Season Preview
*From Protect the Plate
After winning 88 games in 2007, the Mariners were expected to contend for the American League West title last season. Instead, they fell apart, posting the worst record in the AL, and losing 100 games for the first time since 1983.
With a whole new coaching staff headed by first-time manager Don Wakamatsu, the Mariners hope to bounce back in a big way in 2009.
Ichiro Suzuki has recorded 200 hits in each of his eight seasons in Major League Baseball. No other player in the majors has even current a two-year streak of 200 hits.
At 35 years old, Ichiro is still at the top of his game and building his Hall of Fame resume. He won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in 2001, is a two-time batting champ and holds the MLB single season record for hits with 262. He has been an All-Star and Gold Glover every year since becoming the first everyday player to come over from Japan.
The Mariners hope top starters Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard can lead the team to contention.
King Felix is still just 22 years old, but already has started over 100 games. He pitched 200 innings for the first time and had a career-best 3.45 ERA last season.
Things didn't work out so well for Bedard in his first year in Seattle. In his final two years in Baltimore, the lefty went 28-16 with a 3.47 ERA. Bedard made just 15 starts last year, but was effective when healthy, posting a 3.67 ERA.
Starter or Closer?
The Mariners sent star setup man Brandon Morrow to the minors last August to get him ready to be a starter this season.
They continued to groom him to be a starter this spring, but it was revealed earlier this week that he wouldn't be able to start the year in the rotation. One day later, he told the Seattle Times he plans on being a closer.
The 24-year-old posted a 3.34 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 75 hitters in 64 2/3 innings last season.
The Mariners brought back Seattle sports icon Ken Griffey Jr., who will play left field for the first time in his 21st season.
Griffey is no longer The Kid and is far from his days as a perennial MVP candidate but should provide an extra boost in ticket sales and fan interest.
He had an awful 2008, hitting .249 with 18 home runs and 71 RBI between the Reds and White Sox. At 39 years old, its hard to expect a renaissance year from Junior, but it should be an interesting story to follow.
Second baseman Jose Lopez is coming off a career year, and is entering his sixth season at 25-years-old. He set career highs in virtually every offensive category, including home runs (17), RBI (89), runs (80), hits (191), doubles (41), batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.322) and slugging (.443).
Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt took a step back last year, but has been consistent over his career. The 27-year-old finished the year strong, hitting .324 over the final two months of the year.
Kenji Johjima hit .288 in his first two seasons, but plummeted to .227 last year.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre won his second-straight Gold Glove.
Russell Branyan, who has never had 400 at-bats in a season, will start at first base.
The M's should cover more ground in the outfield with Franklin Gutierrez and Wladimir Balentien joining Ichiro and Endy Chavez coming off the bench.
Carlos Silva went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in his first year in Seattle.
Jarrod Washburn also struggled, going 5-14 with a 4.69 ERA.
Ryan Rowland-Smith spend most of last year in the bullpen, but will move to the rotation this season.
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