Evaluating the hits and misses of Mariners spring training camp
The Mariners head to Japan in a week and a half to open the regular season and now have a clearer picture of who will be on the flight. Some once-forgotten names have jumped...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners head to Japan in a week and a half to open the regular season and now have a clearer picture of who will be on the flight. Some once-forgotten names have jumped back into the team's picture, while a slew of newcomers have set the stage to be factors in future springs.
Other much-hyped names came and went rather quietly, while a few are still surrounded by mystery .
Here is a glimpse at some of the players who have forced their way into the conversation and others who risk becoming forgotten topics unless they step it up.
BIGGEST CAMP SURPRISE: Michael Saunders looked to have played his way out of the organization last year, but has suddenly emerged as the most likely candidate to replace the injured Franklin Gutierrez in center field on a regular basis.
Saunders worked this winter with private hitting instructor Mike Bard — brother of former Mariners catcher Josh Bard — and overhauled his plate approach. He's now hitting the ball to all fields, both for average and power. Saunders entered Tuesday batting .389 (7 for 18) with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.061.
"You know what? He's really swung the bat well this spring," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I mean, literally night and day from what we've seen in the past. From what I've seen in the past. He's up there. He's a little more aggressive. He's seeing the ball better, he's striding to hit. Taking what they give him. And he's seeing results."
Runner up: Munenori Kawasaki should land an infield job to start the year. He's hitting bullets all over the place, quite unlike the slap-hitter he was said to be when he came over from Japan. He can play multiple positions and could step in for Brendan Ryan if the latter fails to stay in the lineup because of health.
BEST DARKHORSE TO MAKE TEAM: Erasmo Ramirez was the least heralded of four top starting pitching prospects the Mariners brought to camp. Yet he's the last one standing after Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton were sent to the minors. Wedge on Sunday mentioned Ramirez as a possible bullpen candidate to start the year, meaning his strike-throwing ways have certainly been noticed.
"Whenever I've pitched, it's always been, 'All right, hit the ball,' " Ramirez said of his knack for finding the strike zone. "I like to be aggressive with the hitters and see if they can hit it."
BEST CANDIDATE TO TURN HEADS NEXT SPRING: Walker only threw one official Cactus League inning, but he did enough this spring to get folks buzzing about the 19-year-old. Felix Hernandez said Walker reminded him of himself at that age due to his ability to strike guys out.
Runner up: Vinnie Catricala at third base. Adrian Beltre of the Rangers is one of a few remaining examples of power-hitting third basemen in the game. On Monday, starting opposite Beltre, Catricala unloaded a towering homer to left field. He won't make the team, but might someday soon.
BEST PLAYER IN WRONG POSITION: Kyle Seager could be starting at second base for many teams in baseball. Has flashed some home-run power this spring and could force his way on to the roster. Don't be shocked if Dustin Ackley is moved back to outfield in 2013 to make room for Seager at second.
"They've kind of prepared me for everything," Seager said. "Be ready to play third. Be ready to play multiple positions and then we'll kind of just see where we're at in the end.
PROSPECTS YOU EXPECTED MORE FROM: Nick Franklin had his glove struggles this spring. He'll have to figure shortstop out, because he's quickly getting blocked at second and third by other players. Third baseman Francisco Martinez, acquired in the Doug Fister deal, had a very quiet spring, as did outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, who came over in the Erik Bedard deal.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARKS: The whole Ichiro-Chone Figgins lineup juggle is still a work in progress. Figgins reached base on a bloop single and a walk Monday to up his batting average to .222. He's worked counts well and hit the ball hard at times, but will need that to translate to better numbers once the season begins.
Ichiro faces a more difficult task in trying to reinvent himself as a hitter. It's going to take time for him to adjust to a wider stance and different swing path. He's hitting .286 after going 0 for 2 on Monday, and the team would eventually like to see that average built on more than just singles.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The bullpen has come up short at times. Hong-Chi Kuo tossed a scoreless inning Monday but allowed another walk and a hit, though he lowered his ERA to 14.73. Shawn Camp allowed a home run and double while George Sherrill yielded two walks, but got out of his inning. Former Mariners reliever David Pauley was released by the Tigers on Monday and might be looked at by Seattle.
• Blake Beavan continued a strong bid for a rotation spot with five innings of two-run ball in a 6-4 victory against the Rangers, striking out Josh Hamilton twice. Beavan lowered his spring ERA to 2.38 and the five innings were a staff high this spring.
• Miguel Olivo put Seattle ahead to stay with a three-run homer in the sixth off Joe Nathan.
• Jesus Montero had his third double of the spring and is batting .389.
• Trayvon Robinson had a single in one at-bat and is hitting .538.
|Andrus ss||3||0||0||0||Figgins cf||2||0||1||0|
|A.Gonzalz 2b||1||0||1||1||T.Robinsn cf||1||1||1||0|
|G.Miclat 2b||3||0||1||0||Ryan ss||3||0||1||0|
|L.Hernndz ss||2||0||0||0||B.Miller ss||1||1||1||0|
|J.Hamiltn dh||3||0||0||0||Ichiro rf||2||0||0||0|
|Borbon pr-dh||1||0||0||0||C.Wells rf||1||0||0||0|
|Beltre 3b||2||1||0||0||J.Montero dh||3||1||1||2|
|M.Olt 3b||1||0||0||0||Carp lf||3||1||1||0|
|Hawpe 1b||0||0||0||0||Olivo c||3||1||1||3|
|N.Cruz rf||3||1||1||1||J.Sucre ph-c||1||0||0||0|
|Gentry rf||0||0||0||0||Liddi 1b||3||0||0||0|
|D.Murphy lf||3||1||1||1||V.Ctricala 3b||4||1||1||1|
|C.Jackson lf||1||0||0||0||M.Kwsaki 2b||3||0||0||0|
|Torrealba c||2||0||0||0||L.Rodrigz 2b||1||0||0||0|
|Texas||010 100 101||—||4|
|Seattle||001 003 20x||—||6|
|Nathan L, 0-1||1||2||3||3||2||1|
|Kuo W, 1-0||1||1||0||0||1||0|
|Ruffin S, 1||1||2||1||1||0||0|