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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - Page updated at 04:19 PM

Turn on the power

Mariners juice their offense by moving in the fences, adding sluggers Morales, Morse & Ibanez

COVER PHOTO BY JOHN LOK / PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY RICH BOUDET


CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP

Raul Ibanez: "I know what it feels like to be in a good environment. I think we have a lot of that right here."

Veteran outfielder Raul Ibanez was with the Mariners for the best and worst of times during a four-team career that seems destined to end where it all began.

And those worst of times don't even include the 2010 season. Ibanez had already left when the Mariners were racked by 101 losses, a historic offensive collapse and internal strife that resulted in a housecleaning of coaches and players. That housecleaning — only part of it involved a rebuilding process still ongoing — finally appears done and it's a spanking new abode in which Ibanez and other veterans have unpacked their bags.

For some, the stopover might be brief. There's no denying a good deal of the team's new look was achieved with players here on only one-year deals.

But it's also tough to deny that the Mariners will head into the 2013 season with a power-fueled look and positive clubhouse vibe vastly different from previous years. Read story →

Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Felix Hernandez gave his blessing to the new fences. "When we play on the road and play in short ballparks, we've pitched pretty good. I'm not worried about that."

  • The pitchers: M's staff doesn't fear the new fences

    Every hitter at Safeco Field has a sob story (or 10) — the blast he was sure was going out until it died in the marine layer.

    Well, there's a flip side to that standard tale of woe, of course. For every hitter sulking in the agony of a tater lost, there has been a pitcher reveling in the ecstasy of an ERA preserved.

    "If everyone looked back," said right-hander Blake Beavan, "you can think of certain pitches; you're like, 'I don't know if that's going to stay in ... oh, thank you.' That big, deep breath you let out." Read story →

  • The order: Mariners add some muscle in the middle

    Getting a cheap laugh out of Michael Morse simply requires suggesting that batting in the middle of the order is no tougher than any other spot.

    "Oh, yeah, sure it isn't," Morse said with a chuckle, shaking his head slowly. "It's real easy."

    The Mariners always envisioned Morse as a future middle-of-the-order type. But it wasn't until after a trade to the Washington Nationals in 2009 that he finally was thrust into that spot full-time, then proved he could handle it. Read story →

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

The fences at Safeco Field have been moved closer to home plate in many locations, most significantly in left-center field.

Safeco Field changes: Fair or foul?

The fences are coming in at Safeco Field, and just about everyone associated with the Mariners is delighted about it.

Hitters feel like they've been liberated from the soul-draining experience of striking a ball with every ounce of their strength, going into a home-run trot ... then watching an outfielder haul the ball in at the wall.

Manager Eric Wedge is happy to clear the clubhouse of a pervasive source of angst, one that has infiltrated various incarnations of Mariners lineups but has reached critical mass with their current generation of young hitters trying to find their way.

"Just getting rid of that distraction, deterrent, excuse — whatever you want to call it — is a very positive thing," Wedge said during spring training. Read story →


Capsules by Scott Hanson / Seatttle Times staff

Starting lineup

Age
26
Height
6-4
Weight
225
Bats
Left

55 | Michael Saunders, RF

Best case: After a breakthrough season in 2012, he emerges as one of the game's stars. He hits more than 25 home runs and steals more than 25 bases, and shows the stuff that made him a star in the World Baseball Classic.

Worst case: He takes a major step backward and looks more like he did in 2011, when he hit .149.

What to expect: No one questioned his ability during his climb through the minor leagues, and he seems poised for a big season. No reason he couldn't hit .275 or so, with 25 home runs and steals. He does need to cut down on his strikeouts (132 compared to just 43 walks), but look for that to improve, too.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .247 71 125 19 57 21 .306 .432
Career .220 129 237 31 102 37 .283 .365
Age
30
Height
6-2
Weight
195
Bats
Right

21 | Franklin Gutierrez, CF

Best case: For the first time since 2010, he is relatively injury free, and delivers an offensive season comparable to his first year in Seattle in 2009 when he hit .283 with 18 home runs and 70 runs batted in. All of this while his defense is Gold Glove-caliber.

Worst case: Injuries and ailments crop up again, and the Mariners realize they can't depend on him.

What to expect: He seems to be healthy, and maybe the bad luck is behind him. He hits .255 with about 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases, but more importantly, he plays in more than 140 games after playing in just 132 combined in 2011 and 2012.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .260 18 39 4 17 3 .309 .420
Career .256 308 618 57 255 74 .308 .384
Age
29
Height
6-1
Weight
225
Bats
Right

8 | Kendrys Morales, DH

Best case: Morales, another year removed from the serious knee injury he suffered in 2010, has a season like he had with the Angels in 2009, when he hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in.

Worst case: With teams now pitching around him, which wasn't the case with the Angels, he struggles to put up similar statistics to last year.

What to expect: This is a tough call. He looked like he was on his way to becoming one of the game's elite hitters when he got hurt in 2010. Guessing here that his numbers will be similar to last year, which might not be up to fans' expectations but would still make him one of the team's top hitters.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .273 61 132 22 73 0 .320 .467
Career .281 216 455 79 265 4 .331 .491
Age
31
Height
6-5
Weight
245
Bats
Right

38 | Michael Morse, LF

Best case: He stays healthy and puts up numbers similar to the monster season he had with the Washington Nationals in 2011 when he had 31 home runs, 95 runs batted in and hit .303.

Worst case: Morse struggles in his transition back to the American League and is hit with injuries again after being limited to 102 games last season.

What to expect: Morse has always been a good hitter, and he should have a solid season, if not the spectacular year that he had two seasons ago. He hit .300 overall for Seattle in parts of four seasons from 2005-08, which raises this question: Why did the Mariners get rid of him in the first place?

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .291 53 118 18 62 0 .321 .470
Career .295 199 456 70 245 6 .347 .492
Age
26
Height
6-4
Weight
220
Bats
Switch.

17 | Justin Smoak, 1B

Best case: He gets off to a hot start, and avoids the long droughts which have marked his career. He finally begins to show the promise that GM Jack Zduriencik staked so much on by hitting at least 30 homers and driving in at least 90 runs.

Worst case: He gets off to a terrible start, the booing begins to get very loud at Safeco and the Mariners are forced to sit Smoak.

What to expect: It's hard to believe he has figured it out after seeing his batting average drop three straight years. He might hit .240 with 22 to 25 home runs and 80 runs batted in, but that would still make him one of the worst-hitting first basemen in the league. Not foreseeing a happy ending.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .217 49 105 19 51 1 .290 .364
Career .223 127 281 47 154 2 .306 .377
Age
25
Height
6-0
Weight
213
Bats
Left

15 | Kyle Seager, 3B

Best case: Seager was the Mariners' most productive offensive player last season in his first full season, and he betters last year's numbers by avoiding long slumps like he endured last season. He continues to be extra tough in the clutch.

Worst case: Seager hit below .250 in May, June and July last season, and he struggles again with consistency.

What to expect: Sure, there isn't a huge sample size, but Seager sure seems headed toward a very good major-league career. Look for him to have another solid year with a better batting average. He showed more power last season than many expected and he had some speed, too.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .259 62 154 20 83 13 .316 .423
Career .259 84 201 23 99 16 .315 .412
Age
23
Height
6-3
Weight
228
Bats
Right

63 | Jesus Montero, C

Best case: He performs well defensively at catcher while working well with pitchers, erasing doubts that he can handle the position on an everyday basis. His offensive numbers improve and he establishes himself as one of the elite players at his position.

Worst case: He can't handle being an everyday catcher, and his offensive numbers suffer. He still has long periods where he struggles offensively and still rarely takes a walk (29 walks and 99 strikeouts last year).

What to expect: He won't make anyone forget Johnny Bench with his defensive skills, but 20 home runs and 75 runs batted in seem like attainable goals.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .260 46 134 15 62 0 .298 .386
Career .267 55 154 19 74 0 .310 .408
Age
25
Height
6-1
Weight
194
Bats
Left

13 | Dustin Ackley, 2B

Best case: The .226 batting average last season was an anomaly. He hits about .280 with 15 to 20 home runs and stolen bases, and begins to achieve the promise the Mariners expected when they made him the second overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Worst case: He continues to struggle at the plate, striking out way too often (124 times last season) and not getting on base enough.

What to expect: He is a better player than last season suggests, but he needs to be a lot better. That seems likely, and an average about .260 with power numbers a bit better than last year is not unreasonable.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .226 84 137 12 50 13 .294 .328
Career .243 123 228 18 86 19 .314 .360
Age
31
Height
6-2
Weight
192
Bats
Right

26 | Brendan Ryan, SS

Best case: He continues to display Gold Glove-caliber defense while seeing his batting average return to about the .250 range.

Worst case: Ryan's woeful offensive season last year isn't a fluke and he once again struggles to hit above .200. Like last season, injuries force him out of a number of games, and his future as the team's shortstop is far from secure.

What to expect: He can't possibly hit as badly as he did last season, can he? Ryan certainly looked overmatched at times at the plate last year, but he should be able to hit .230 or so, all while still playing excellent defense.

By the numbers

Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2012 .194 42 79 3 31 11 .277 .278
Career .244 258 499 15 165 63 .306 .327

Starting pitchers

Age
26
Height
6-3
Weight
228

34 | Felix Hernandez, RHP

Best case: The King stays healthy, and he not only has another stellar season, he is a great leader for the pitching staff.

Worst case: Hernandez slumped at the end of last season, and those struggles continue this season. Of course, the worst scenario is that the dependable Hernandez gets hurt. That is something Seattle cannot afford.

What to expect: The Mariners might eventually regret the very rich extension they gave Hernandez in the offseason, but that's not likely to happen this year. He has thrown a lot of pitches for such a young age, but he should again be one of baseball's best pitchers.

W-L ERA GS IP H BB SO WHIP
2012 13-9 3.06 33 232 209 56 223 1.14
Career 98-76 3.22 238 1620.1 1484 480 1487 1.21
Age
31
Height
6-3
Weight
210

18 | Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP

Best case: Another season like last year, his first in the major leagues. Iwakuma went from deep in the bullpen to starter last year, and was perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the team.

Worst case: He can't match last year's season, and the Mariners start to really miss having Jason Vargas around as the team's No. 2 starter.

What to expect: This is a tough call, but it's asking a lot for him to have a similar ERA to last year, and there is a lot of pressure on him. He had shoulder issues while playing in Japan, so his durability is a concern. If he stays healthy, he should have a decent season, but not quite to the level of last year.

W-L ERA GS IP H BB SO WHIP
2012 9-5 3.16 16 125.1 117 43 101 1.28
Career 9-5 3.16 16 125.1 117 43 101 1.28
Age
31
Height
6-3
Weight
210

23 | Joe Saunders, LHP

Best case: He gives the pitching staff veteran leadership and he eats up a lot of innings. He pitches well enough to keep the Mariners in enough games to get at least 10 victories.

Worst case: He struggles in the first two months and the Mariners bring up one of their top prospects to take his spot in the rotation.

What to expect: He has been a mediocre pitcher since 2009 with the Angels, when he went 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA. That seemed like a breakout season then, but it now looks like an aberration. He was 9-13 last season and his record will probably be similar this year.

W-L ERA GS IP H BB SO WHIP
2012 9-13 4.07 28 174.2 195 39 112 1.34
Career 78-65 4.15 189 1161.2 1236 354 662 1.37
Age
22
Height
6-5
Weight
215

37 | Brandon Maurer, RHP

Best case: After a good season at Class AA Jackson, Maurer seamlessly makes the jump to the major leagues and looks like a potential star.

Worst case: Maurer is taking a big step up in competition, and he struggles mightily. His WHIP wasn't great at Jackson (1.31) and it gets much worse in Seattle, leading to an early demotion to the minors.

What to expect: The Mariners are asking a lot from the 22-year-old, and it's likely he struggles. Have a feeling he won't keep his spot in the Mariners' rotation all season, although that doesn't mean he won't have a nice career.

W-L ERA GS IP H BB SO WHIP
*2012 9-2 3.20 24 137.2 133 48 117 1.31
*Career 16-17 3.66 58 322 308 101 294 1.27

* Minor-league statistics

Age
24
Height
6-7
Weight
253

49 | Blake Beavan, RHP

Best case: He pitches about 200 innings, wins 12 or more games, and continues to walk few hitters. Beavan solidifies himself at the back end of the Mariners' rotation.

Worst case: He goes through another slump like he did last year, when he was demoted to Class AAA Tacoma for a month in mid-June.

What to expect: The 6-foot-7 Beavan pitched well in the spring with new mechanics to take more advantage of his height, and he pitched well last year after being recalled by the Mariners in July. His final stats were actually pretty good, and the 1.26 WHIP was very good. A solid year seems likely.

W-L ERA GS IP H BB SO WHIP
2012 11-11 4.43 26 152.1 168 24 67 1.26
Career 16-17 4.37 41 249.1 274 39 109 1.26

The manager

22 | Eric Wedge, third year

Best case: The Mariners win more games for the third consecutive season and he continues to have the support of management and fans.

Worst case: Seattle doesn't seem to have the talent to compete with Texas and Los Angeles, and it's unlikely the M's will make the playoffs. Because of that, Wedge might get undeserved heat.

By the numbers

Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012 Career
Team Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Mariners Mariners
W-L 68-94 80-92 93-69 78-84 96-66 81-81 65-97 67-95 75-87 703-755
Finish 4th 3rd 2nd 4th 1st 3rd 4th 4th 4th

Bullpen

Age
29
Height
6-6
Weight
220

Tom Wilhelmsen

54, RHP

Best case: Puts up similar numbers to last year when he replaced struggling Brandon League as the team's closer.

Worst case: He has the same issue that League went through: Great one year and bad the next.

What to expect: A solid season, but with bumps along the way.

W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 4-3 2.50 29 79.1 87 1.11
Career 6-3 2.73 29 112 117 1.13
Age
22
Height
6-5
Weight
220

Carter Capps

58, RHP

Best case: The fireballer develops into a great setup pitcher.

Worst case: He struggles with his control and allows too many base runners.

What to expect: He has a bright future but is still learning to pitch. An up-and-down season is likely.

W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 0-0 3.96 0 25 28 1.44
Career 0-0 3.96 0 25 28 1.44
Age
23
Height
6-4
Weight
250

Stephen Pryor

46, RHP

Best case: The hard-throwing righty lives up to big expectations.

Worst case: He has a WHIP similar to last year.

What to expect: He obviously has ability and an injury slowed his progress last year. Look for a lot of improvement.

W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 3-1 3.91 0 23 27 1.52
Career 3-1 3.91 0 23 27 1.52
Age
26
Height
6-5
Weight
215

Charlie Furbush

41, LHP

Best case: Numbers similar to last year, particularly the WHIP below 1.00.

Worst case: He pitches like he did in 2011, when he struggled and allowed homers at an alarming rate.

What to expect: Something in between last year and 2011.

W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 5-2 2.72 0 46.1 53 0.95
Career 9-12 4.51 0 131.2 120 1.30
Age
25
Height
6-4
Weight
203

Lucas Luetge

44, LHP

Best case: Something close to the start of last year when he didn't allow an earned run in his first 25 appearances.

Worst case: He struggles like he did in the second half last year.

What to expect: He should be fine in role as situational lefty.

W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 2-2 3.98 2 40.2 38 1.50
Career 2-2 3.98 2 40.2 38 1.50
Age
31
Height
6-3
Weight
218

Oliver Perez

59, LHP

Best case: He continues resurgence with a solid season.

Worst case: He starts pitching as badly as he did in his last two years with the Mets.

What to expect: He has never been real reliable, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he regressed.

W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 1-3 2.12 0 29.2 24 1.25
Career 59-72 4.57 0 1141.1 1150 1.48
Age
31
Height
6-8
Weight
245

Kameron Loe

31, RHP

Best case: He pitches well enough to stay on the roster.

Worst case: He costs the Mariners a couple of games.

What to expect: He has been a mediocre pitcher in his career, and that likely won't change.


W-L ERA SV IP SO WHIP
2012 6-5 4.61 2 68.1 55 1.43
Career 32-40 4.36 4 542.1 342 1.42

Bench

Age
40
Ht.
6-2
Wt.
225

Raul Ibanez

28, OF/DH, Bats: Left

Best case: He hits with power and is great in the clubhouse.

Worst case: His age catches up to him, and his numbers sink.

What to expect: He showed last year in the postseason that he can still hit. This return should have a happy ending.

Avg R HR RBI OBP SLG
2012 .240 50 19 62 .308 .453
Car. .278 978 271 1116 .340 .470
Age
34
Ht.
6-2
Wt.
211

Jason Bay

12, OF, Bats: Right

Best case: With little pressure on him, he is once again a productive hitter.

Worst case: Last year's .149 average with the Mets was no fluke.

What to expect: He hit well in the spring and he can be useful in a limited role.

Avg R HR RBI OBP SLG
2012 .165 21 8 20 .237 .299
Career .269 707 211 734 .363 .485
Age
28
Ht.
6-0
Wt.
195

Robert Andino

3, INF, Bats: Right

Best case: He fills in admirably at a number of infield positions.

Worst case: His average continues to plummet after hitting just .211 with Baltimore last year.

What to expect: He should be OK in a very limited role.


Avg R HR RBI OBP SLG
2012 .211 41 7 28 .283 .305
Career .235 152 18 92 .296 .323
Age
32
Ht.
6-0
Wt.
220

Kelly Shoppach

7, C, Bats: Right

Best case: Stays healthy, continues to have better-than-average power.

Worst case: He becomes the regular catcher because Montero can't handle catching duties or gets injured.

What to expect: A good year as the backup.

Avg R HR RBI OBP SLG
2012 .233 23 8 27 .309 .425
Career .226 197 67 207 .314 .418
Age
28
Ht.
6-2
Wt.
220

Casper Wells

33, OF, Bats: Right

Best case: Good power off the bench while cutting down on his strikeouts.

Worst case: He can't improve on last year's .228 average.

What to expect: He will be OK if he makes the team, which is no sure thing.

Avg R HR RBI OBP SLG
2012 .228 42 10 36 .302 .396
Career .246 86 25 80 .317 .435

Mariners' home-run history

The Mariners have featured big boppers as well as weak swingers in their 36 seasons. Click through to see the Mariners' home-run leaders, the total HRs hit by the team and where that ranked in MLB each season.

1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2020
1977


Leroy Stanton -- 27 homers

The veteran outfielder had a career year for the expansion Mariners. The next season he hit .182 with three home runs, was released and never played in the majors again.

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PRODUCED BY KATRINA BARLOW, AMY BERGSTROM & BENJAMIN TURNER / SEATTLE TIMES