This is a pivotal season for the Mariners as they continue to make progress on an 88-win season last year.
After much debate, they went out and got Erik Bedard and paid dearly for him. See Jones, Adam. After a couple of weeks of action, they find themselves hovering around .500, all while losing closer J.J Putz and Bedard to injury, and also while much of the middle of the lineup is being fairly inconsistent.
What must happen to take this team from the middle of the pack to the top?
Well for starters, Putz and especially Bedard cannot be gone for long. If Bedard misses any more than a few weeks, this season is toast. The M's cannot afford to throw out RA Dickey or Cha Sung Baek for more than a couple of starts.
The early season schedule is loaded with teams with losing records from the year before. The Mariners must capitalize.
Secondly, the middle of the order must produce, fast. This starts with Sexson, Vidro, and Wilkerson.
Sexson is coming off one of the worst seasons any player has had on the history of the game. So far this year he's looked a little better. His bat speed still seems slow, but his patience at the plate, a concept drilled in all year by the coaching staff, is standing out.
As for Vidro, his first week was nothing short of awful. But recently he has been coming up with the hits when he needs them. In order to keep his job, he must continue to drive the ball in the gaps and hit for more power. I expect him to find a groove.
Wilkerson has shown nothing in the first 18 games. If he doesn't produce soon, expect some changes to be made. The M's can survive if two of these guys produce. If more than one struggles, expect this team to look to minor leaguers C/DH Jeff Clement and OF Wladimir Balentien to be called up.
While a lot of factors contribute to make a winning season, none is more important than Bedard. The front office has kept quiet about his hip injury, which is scary. If they lose him for any extended period of time they are in big, big trouble.
So far this team is proving to be a .500 ball club. In order to exceed that mark, most variables must go Seattle's way. Now is the time to start to put some wins together. If they struggle early, Seattle is in for a long, long summer.