Seattle Mariners: Breaking Down Each Big Injury Concern Heading into 2011

Alex CarsonCorrespondent IIIMarch 2, 2011

Seattle Mariners: Breaking Down Each Big Injury Concern Heading into 2011

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    This season, much like last, the Mariners' bargain bin shopping means they have some reclamation products coming off injury.

    They also have some guys who just seem to love to be hurt.

    This is what a club with bad backloaded contracts has to deal with, as it has no budget room and finds itself scouring the scrap heap to keep the club from losing another 100 games.

    Here's a look at the Mariners' biggest injury concerns and how the team may deal with each.

Jose Flores

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    Wait, Jose Flores is an injury risk?

    Sort of.

    As the Mariners' Rule 5 draft pick this winter, Flores will need to be on the big league roster all season or be offered back to his original club.

    Teams every season make up injuries to keep a guy on their squad so they don't lose him. It's one of the most broken rules in the game and rarely gets investigated.

    If Flores pitches well, this will be moot. If he struggles at all, especially around the time Shawn Kelley is due back, expect him to come up with a case of arm soreness or a hurt foot from slipping at home.

    To replace him, the team would either activate a guy like Kelley if the timing is right or call up one of Josh Lueke or Dan Cortes.

Doug Fister

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    Fister was enjoying a nice season until he got hurt last year.

    There's plenty of evidence that shows that Fister's peripherals did not change after the injury. He was essentially the same pitcher before and after, with luck affecting him differently on each side.

    He's not as good as he was in April and May of 2010, but he's not as bad as he was late in the season either.

    Thus, should he be hurt again, Fister shouldn't be a difficult player to replace. He's slightly above average at best, so just about any minor league replacement level player such as David Pauley should be able to soak up his innings and give the team the same value.

Adam Moore

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    Moore spent over a month on the DL last season with a leg injury.

    Obviously, legs are important for catchers. Only time will tell how legit this leg injury was and if it had any bearing on his poor showing with the big club.

    The more I read, the more it seems I am incorrect in my assumption that Moore would start the season down in Tacoma after the club brought in Miguel Olivo. I have a hard time believing that they've given up on him and would rather him play once a week in the big leagues than work on things every day in Tacoma.

    If he is a backup in Seattle, replacing him with any once a week guy shouldn't be tough if he got hurt again. If he is still treated as a prospect with hope and plays every day, replacing him becomes more difficult.

    The team is pretty thin at catcher in the system, with one of the top-ranked guys (Steve Baron) expected to provide no offense by most scouts.

    Moore should be in Tacoma, injury risk or not, playing every day. He's the best young player the org has behind the dish.

Milton Bradley

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    Milton Bradley at his peak is the kind of bat this anemic offense needs.

    The problem, of course, is that Bradley hasn't been at his peak for a while.

    While he was productive as recently as 2008, that was three seasons ago now, and there have to be some serious concerns about decline. The injuries have mounted up to go along with his other on- and off-field issues, and some scouts believe his bat speed has declined significantly.

    If he's healthy, meaning the knee holds up, he could be a guy who at least gives you an above-average OBP and occasional pop with flexibility as a switch hitter. He shouldn't spend any serious amount of time in the field, but with the addition of Jack Cust it's apparent the Mariners don't intend on DHing Bradley.

    I'd probably still expect a parting of ways before camp breaks, regardless of the $12 million owed. This team can't rely on Bradley to be its fourth outfielder or to start if Michael Saunders doesn't pan out, and there isn't a DH spot for him.

    Should he stay with the club and become injured, though, I'd look for Ryan Langerhans, Gabe Gross or perhaps Greg Halman to take his spot.

Shawn Kelley

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    Kelley will start the season on the DL after having his second Tommy John surgery.

    It's not common for a guy to have two, as the success rate of the first is pretty good and generally makes the elbow stronger than it was before. However, Kelley's first was when he was much younger and without a major league team footing the bill.

    He should make his way back to the team sometime in June if all goes well, at which point he'll bolster a bullpen that could use a little help.

    If he suffers a setback, look for whichever of Dan Cortes or Josh Lueke is still in the minors to get the call.

David Aardsma

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    Aardsma may be back by the third week of April, and the injury isn't to his arm, so maybe he just gets some nagging hip pain during the season and fights through it.

    The Mariners are counting on Aardsma to be healthy and effective so they can trade him at this point this season, so they surely will be hoping that is the case.

    What if he does go down again, though? Perhaps some issues come back. Who would the team replace him with?

    Luckily, the options are plentiful in-house.

    Brandon League would become perhaps the solution for the time being. However, being a super two, he's due for his fourth arbitration raise after this season, and a handful of saves would drive that price up.

    There are also youngsters Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke, though they'll likely spend some time in middle relief and setup duties before handed the coveted closer role.

    Then there are non-roster guys like Chris Ray and Manny Delcarmen, who signed with the team because of the opportunity to potentially nab that closer role.

Jack Wilson

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    It's not a matter of if, but when.

    I hate to assume anyone will be in pain or unable to do what they love, and I sure wouldn't wish it on anyone. With Jack Wilson, though, we're just sitting back and waiting.

    He's supposedly down 12 pounds, or 22 pounds, depending on who you believe or from what date. He's saying he's learned from his injury history and is taking precautions to not get hurt again.

    We'll see.

    If he does go down again, though, the team has added a bunch of middle infield depth and won't have an issue replacing him.

    If he goes down sometime before June, Brendan Ryan will slide from second to short, and Adam Kennedy would likely take over at second. If it's after June, it'll be Dustin Ackley moving in at second (if he hadn't already) and Ryan still the man handling the six hole.

    Quite honestly, Wilson isn't a guy the Mariners should be relying on anyhow. There is a massive shortage of shortstops who can hit in this league, so any number of all-glove guys could replace him, with Ryan being the obvious candidate. The team will be better off once he moves out of the position, be it through injury, demotion or release.

Franklin Gutierrez

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    When you don't even know what's wrong with a guy, that can cause problems.

    Guti is facing the same stomach ailments that he did late last season, when he missed a couple games and reportedly dropped 10 pounds.

    The issue is presumed by doctors to be acute, but they haven't nailed down the cause yet. This means it could be something that springs up at any given time in spurts of various length.

    The team doesn't have many options should Guti be lost for a significant amount of time. Michael Saunders would likely slide over to center field with some combination of Milton Bradley, Gabe Gross and Ryan Langerhans splitting time in left.

    If they are short bursts, though, he wouldn't hit the DL—meaning it could end up being just Bradley covering the opening in left, which is not where the team wants him spending any significant amount of time with his own injury risks.

    Franklin Gutierrez should be fine. If he's not, however, it creates a huge void and question mark for the team.

Erik Bedard

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    We all know the story about how Bedard came to the Mariners, and we all remember why we hated it then and now.

    However, we need to move past that and realize that Bedard could be a major contributor to this club.

    That said, we shouldn't expect it. His now long list of injuries creates a huge durability concern. Two operations in consecutive seasons put a damper on having too much hope. If he is healthy, though, it's fair to assume he'll contribute and eventually be a trade chip.

    Even with a healthy Bedard, this Mariners club isn't going to contend, so if he remains healthy and pitches well until July, look for him to be shipped off for an interesting prospect or two.

    Should he once again go down to injury, expect Luke French or Nate Robertson to fill his roster spot.

Felix Hernandez

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    Many people wonder about the workload the team's young ace has put in the last couple years.

    Certainly, that should raise eyebrows, but keep in mind that every pitcher is one throw away from his arm exploding.

    I could list every pitcher on the Mariners staff as someone at risk of injury, honestly. I list Felix because of how important his arm is to the team's present and future of this club's hopes to contend.

    How do you replace a (soon to be) 25-year-old that already has years of service time and a Cy Young Award?

    You don't. The Mariners don't, anyway. Should he go down, the only option to even get close to replacing him (Michael Pineda) will likely already be on the roster. After that, there's a whole lot of hope in the middle and lower levels of the minors that simply are just that—hope.

    Let's just hope the M's are not faced with this impossible task.