Seattle Mariners’ Manager Don Wakamatsu announced the team’s starting rotation on Wednesday afternoon. With Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard battling injuries, the Mariners’ rotation will begin the season as follows:
- Felix Hernandez
- Ian Snell
- Ryan Rowland-Smith
- Doug Fister
- Jason Vargas
The rotation offers one true ace, some mild upside, and a whole lot of uncertainty.
Here is a look at what to expect from each starter:
At only 23 years old, Felix Hernandez finally delivered on his Cy Young caliber talent in 2009. Felix returns as the Mariners staff ace in 2010 with a brand new contract extension and the same outstanding repertoire.
Now settled into the Mariners’ organization and safe from rumors surrounding potential trades, expect King Felix to continue to dominate in 2010. With an improved offense, a rock-solid defense, and a pitcher’s ballpark Felix Hernandez will deliver his first Cy Young campaign in 2010.
Projection : 33 GS, 19 W, 2.64 ERA, 203 K
Ian Snell’s career has resembled a roller coaster ride, to put it lightly. A former 14 game winner for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Snell struggled mightily in 2008 and 2009; much of which was allegedly caused by bouts with depression.
Snell was acquired by Seattle at the 2009 trading deadline and turned in mix results at the end of last season. He finished strong, however, going 5-1 with a 3.33 ERA in his last nine starts.
Snell may not impress in 2010, but he is an adequate pitcher who, when supported by the Seattle Mariners’ defense, could display moments of brightness.
Projection : 31 GS, 9 W, 4.56 ERA, 146 K
Ryan Rowland-Smith lost half of 2009 to a triceps injury suffered in his first start of the season. He rebounded admirably, however, putting in 15 starts after returning to the Mariners’ rotation in late July.
Rowland-Smith has an average skill set, but he uses Safeco Field and the Seattle Mariners’ defense to his advantage. In 2009, Rowland-Smith boasted an impressive 1.18 WHIP, and an above-average ERA of 3.74.
Rowland-Smith should get a full workload in 2010, and it’s up to him to make every start count.
Projection : 32 GS, 12 W, 3.89 ERA, 108 K
The bottom two spots in the Seattle Mariners rotation will serve as seat warmers for Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard, respectively. Doug Fister seems to have a hold on the fourth spot in the rotation, but Jason Vargas could challenge him for this position once Lee returns from an abdomen injury in late-April (fingers crossed).
Fister doesn’t have an impressive repertoire, and his K/9 rate leaves much to be desired, but he has above-average control, and isn’t scared to throw strikes early in the count.
Fister will start early in the season, but surrender his spot to Erik Bedard some time in May (fingers crossed). Fister will be ready to return, however, if the Mariners lose another pitcher to injury.
Projection : 12 GS, 3 W, 4.33 ERA, 41 K
As previously mentioned, this spot in the rotation is officially titled “Jason Vargas—Until Cliff Lee Returns.” Vargas will be in the rotation to start the season, but should transition into long relief with the return of the Mariners’ injured starting pitchers.
Vargas started strong in 2009, going 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his first four games started. His season took a nosedive from there, however, as he went 1-5 in nine starts through June and July, sporting an ERA well over 6.00.
Don’t expect Vargas to be in the M’s rotation for the long haul—Assuming the Mariners’ starting pitchers can stay healthy…
Projection : 8 GS, 3 W, 4.69 ERA, 39 K
2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and the oft-injured Erik Bedard should return from their respective injuries within the first two months of the season.
Lee, expected to return in late April, recently reported throwing a pain-free pitching session. Bedard, once thought to be out until the All-Star Break, was recently placed on the 15-Day Disabled List. This could mean good news for the Mariners, as he was not placed on the 60-Day Disabled List, possibly indicating that his return is within two months of the beginning of the season.
Additionally, there is always a chance that, pending catastrophic injuries or cruel twists of fate, starters Luke French and Garrett Olson could find their way back into the rotation. I personally hope that Olson goes far, far away from the Mariners’ organization, but as long as he is in our system let’s just pray he’s in the bullpen.
The Mariners’ rotation could be in flux for a large part of the 2010 season; especially if Erik Bedard’s recovery timetable slows down. For now, Don Wakamatsu has set the starting rotation, and the Mariners are prepared for the 2010 campaign.
What do you think are the strong points of this rotation? What about the weak points? Sound off in the comment section!