Mariners start 2011 season with a major shuffle
The Mariners are making some changes to their starting lineup as the 2011 season gets underway. Will it bring them better luck than last year's losing season?
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel is skeptical, but he says there are some bright spots coming out of spring training.
The Mariners have shifted just about everyone around. Art says the only player in the same position this year that he was consistently in last year is right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Mariners 2011 Starting Lineup
- Catcher - Miguel Olivo: A journeyman catcher who's returning to the Mariners after playing parts of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the team.
- First base - Justin Smoak: The key player in the Cliff Lee trade to Texas last year. He spent last season in the minor league.
- Second base - Jack Wilson: Played shortstop last year and has never played second base in his career.
- Shortstop - Brendan Ryan: A new acquisition from the St. Louis Cardinals.
- Third base - Chone Figgins: Played second base last year but Art says third base is a more natural fit.
- Left field - Milton Bradley: Art says he played less than half the season last year due to injuries and emotional problems, but he led the team in RBIs in spring training.
- Center field - Michael Saunders: Filled in last year and is filling in at center field for Franklin Gutierrez, who starts the season on the disabled list due to ongoing stomach problems.
- Right field - Ichiro Suzuki
- Designated hitter - Jack Cust: New acquisition from Oakland who Art says actually CAN hit.
Pitchers Look Promising
Art says Felix Hernadez looked great in spring training, after winning the American League Cy Young Award last year. Eric Bedard also pitched very well this spring, despite three shoulder surgeries. Art says if Bedard can stay healthy, he'll be an asset. And Art is excited about rookie pitcher Michael Pineda, whom he calls "the next Felix." Mariners closer David Aardsma is starting the season on the disabled list.
A lot of "Ifs" to Start the Season
Art says Mariners fans are going to have to wait and see if all the shuffling the team has done will actually be worth it. He says, defensively, they should be pretty good. It's at the plate where he's worried they won't be able to deliver the power needed to score lots of runs. But he says there are definitely reasons for fans to be cautiously optimistic.
"It could be (that) Pineda and Hernandez and Ichiro are three guys to keep people warm in this early season of frigid temperatures at Safeco Field."
You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.