Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Mariners 'Not Ready' For Regular Season

The Mariners begin their regular season Monday against the Angels in California. But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says they're not ready.

Can't We Stay At Spring Training Just A Little Bit Longer?

“The Mariners are approaching the regular season opener with their shirttails out, zipper down and spaghetti sauce on the chin. It’s just not a club that’s ready to engage," said Art. 

Art says the team has a lot of problems, but some of them involve injuries that are only temporary.

Pitching Problems

“The problem specifically is with the starting rotation," Art said. "Felix Hernandez is being counted on as No. 1, but after that, it’s 52-card pickup,."

Art is referring to the injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma, who has a finger injury that's expected to be healed by mid-April, and Taijuan Walker, who's had shoulder stiffness but should be back soon.

"Meantime, they have to win ball games in April,” Art said.

Filling In The Holes

Erasmo Ramirez, a young guy from Nicaragua who played for the Mariners last year, will be the No. 2 pitcher. And just this week, they hired Chris Young, a 34-year-old veteran who played in the minor leagues last year.  "He's 6-10 —  just like Randy Johnson — and has had a decent past, but really is a throw-in right now," Art said.

"That's because in the middle of this week, a veteran newcomer, Randy Wolf, quit the team over a contract dispute. The Mariners wanted him to sign an agreement that allowed the Mariners to cut him after the healthy players came back. He said ‘No, don’t want to do that.’ Now the rotation is in disarray,” said Art.

Outfield Troubles

Art says the outfield is "pretty unsettled" right now as well. According to him, the starting outfielders will be Dustin Ackley in left field, rookie Abraham Almonte in center and Michael Saunders in right field. Ackley was moved from the infield to the outfield last year. Art says Almonte is an unknown.

Infield Looks Better

Leading the infield will be all-star second baseman and big slugger, Robinson Cano. He's the former Yankee-turned free agent who signed a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Mariners in the offseason. He's been hitting very well in spring training.

Next to Cano at shortstop will be Brad Miller, who Art called the highlight of the spring training season.

"He has come along very, very well. They’re thrilled with him,” Art said. Next to Miller at third will be a "very solid" Kyle Seager.

Rounding out the infield will be Justin Smoak at first base and Mike Zunino at catcher.

"Zunino was a rookie brought up last year who did pretty well. But a lot of people said they rushed him," Art said. "We'll see how that plays out."

New Veteran Slugger Hart Not Delivering

"There’s a lot of stuff going on with the Mariners that should be settled at this point," Art said.

That includes another off-season acquisition: veteran slugger and outfielder Corey Hart. The former Milwaukee Brewer didn’t play last year due to surgery in both knees. He's currently having forearm and shoulder stiffness. Art says don't expect to see him in the outfield anytime soon - most likely just designated hitter for now.

“Logan Morrison is another bat they brought in who’s been mediocre at best. He’s also coming off injury, so it doesn’t look like he’s much help either,” Art said.

Pressure To Have A Winning Season

Art points out that since the Mariners finished last season, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. He says while that shouldn't be relevant to the baseball season, it is.

"The community has abandoned the Mariners in droves. They need to win those people back with a competitive team right out of the box, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”

“It’s been 12 years since there have been playoffs here," Art continued. "People are very upset and demanding progress. I think there may be a little bit of progress by the end of the season but, in a tough division, this is not enough progress to get anybody excited, at least at the start of the season.”

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You can find Art Thiel’s work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.