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It was nothing, really. Norm Charlton, one month into his
comeback from elbow surgery, was pitching for the Phillies last
May 27 when he threw a fastball to San Diego outfielder Steve
Finley. Finley smashed the ball up the middle; the drive ripped
a gash in Charlton's forehead, blackened both eyes and fractured
a bone in his nose. "I was ready to pitch the next day,"
Charlton says matter-of-factly.

No one would have blinked if he had pitched the next day. This
is, after all, the reliever who, during his first stint with the
Mariners, in August 1993, shredded a ligament in his pitching
elbow and, with his arm dangling like a boiled noodle, somehow
got off two more pitches. When Philadelphia cut Charlton last
July, Seattle swept in to sign him. In the Mariners' magical '95
season, no player was more vital down the stretch than this
veteran lefthander trying to resurrect his career. From Aug. 19
on, Charlton saved 12 games in 12 opportunities, went 2-0 and
posted an 0.89 ERA. If Seattle is to outlast the Angels in 1996,
it will need a healthy and effective Charlton leading the
charge. "He's got a ruggedness to him," says righthander Chris
Bosio. "We've never really had that."

Not that there's a shortage of confidence among the Mariners.
The gritty, garrulous gang includes the manic Jay Buhner; the
calmly professional Edgar Martinez (page 50), last year's AL
batting champion; the intimidating Randy Johnson, 1995 Cy Young
winner; and, of course, the wondrous Ken Griffey Jr.

That Seattle didn't go to pieces when Griffey shattered his left
wrist in May and missed 73 games last season doesn't mean the
six-time Gold Glove-winning centerfielder is dispensable.
Griffey, 26, is the best player in the AL and worth every nickel
of the $34 million four-year contract he signed on Feb. 2.

Hoping to take the field on Griffey's right is Darren Bragg. The
team thought enough of Bragg's speed not to re-sign Vince
Coleman. But because Bragg failed to earn the leftfielder's job
last spring--he did get called up at midseason and go 9 for 9 in
stolen-base attempts--Seattle picked up the well-traveled and
underrated Luis Polonia as insurance. At 31 Polonia still has
decent pop, and he stole 55 bases as recently as 1993. Either
Bragg or Polonia will make an adequate leadoff hitter.

The big question, of course, is how 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez
will fare as starting shortstop. The first player taken in the
1993 draft, Rodriguez is such a spectacular defensive player
that manager Lou Piniella will be pleased if Rodriguez hits only
.250. "He'd have to stumble awfully bad not to stay in the
lineup," Piniella says, "and I don't expect that."

Nor does Piniella expect a drop-off elsewhere in the infield.
The loss of third baseman Mike Blowers should be offset by the
acquisition of longtime Yankees prospect Russ Davis. And though
meaty first baseman Paul Sorrento isn't the pure hitter that his
predecessor, Tino Martinez, was, the former Indian has more
power. The question is whether Sorrento can hit lefties; in 259
career at bats against lefthanders, he has hit just .224 with 49

The Mariners don't have the starting pitchers the Angels have,
but they do have Johnson, who seems to lift the team to his
formidable height whenever he takes the mound: Seattle was 27-3
in games he started last year. Free agents Andy Benes and Tim
Belcher have departed, but the veteran Bosio, lefty Sterling
Hitchcock and righthander Bob Wolcott give the Mariners the
second-best rotation in the pitching-poor AL West. Hitchcock,
who came over with Davis from the Yankees in the Tino Martinez
deal, is a battler and, with some help from the offense, could
win 15 games. The 22-year-old Wolcott, a change-up specialist,
proved his mettle by defeating Cleveland in the ALCS opener last

Considering that Seattle traded away its best bullpen arms, Jeff
Nelson (to the Yankees) and Bill Risley (to the Blue Jays),
Charlton is all the more important to the relief corps. The club
did land free agent Mike Jackson, who joins an otherwise suspect
group that includes Bobby Ayala and Tim Davis.

The Mariners' attitude of a year ago is intact. And expectations
were raised by last season's thrilling playoff run: Seattle sold
nearly 150,000 highlight videos, and advance season-ticket sales
passed 10,000 for the first time in club history. This is a
charismatic and resilient team that will once again take the
pennant race down to the wire.

--Kostya Kennedy

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Mr Mariner Ken Griffey Jr. sets his sights on a title in Seattle

COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO From the Stretch It was a long reach from one end of the Big Unit to the other as Seattle Mariners ace Randy Johnson--all 6'10" of him--rounded into his Cy Young form in spring training. [Randy Johnson stretching--T of C] COLOR PHOTO: TONY TOMSIC Charlton has lost some velocity but none of his intensity on the mound. [Norm Charlton in game]


1995 Team Statistics (AL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .276 (7)
Home Runs 182 (3)
ERA 4.52 (5)
Fielding Pct. .980 (12)

An Ace up Their Sleeves

The Mariners won 27 of the 30 games started by Randy Johnson
during the 1995 regular season (with Johnson himself posting a
record of 18-2). No major league team in this century has had a
better single-season winning percentage in games started by any
one pitcher who made at least 25 starts.

Best Record for a Team in Games Started by a Particular Pitcher

Starter Team
(W-L) W-L (Pct.)

Mariners Randy Johnson (18-2) 27-3 (.900)

Athletics Lefty Grove (31-4)* 27-3 (.900)

Yankees Whitey Ford (25-4) 34-5 (.872)

Red Sox Joe Wood (34-5)* 33-5 (.868)

Yankees Ron Guidry (25-3) 30-5 (.857)

*Includes relief appearances


Only one thing has kept Russ Davis from playing in the big
leagues: a Hall-of-Famer-to-be named Wade Boggs. After two
seasons at Triple A Columbus, Ohio, where he hit 51 home runs
and was recognized as the International League's best defensive
third baseman, Davis, 26, spent most of last year on the Yankees
bench while Boggs manned the corner. Now, after being traded to
Seattle in December, Davis gets the chance to pick up where Mike
Blowers left off. Davis, a six-foot, 195-pound righthanded
hitter, has raw power, and he's a great improvement in the field
over Blowers, who now plays third for the Dodgers. "If we'd had
Blowers in the big leagues and Davis at Triple A," says Mariners
vice president of scouting and player development Roger
Jongewaard, "we would have had to trade Blowers." With all eyes
in Seattle fixed on phenom Alex Rodriguez at shortstop and the
Mariners lineup already littered with big-time hitters, this is
the season for Davis to slip quietly and productively into the
major leagues.



LF Darren Bragg .234, 3, 12, 9
2B Joey Cora .297, 3, 39, 18
CF Ken Griffey Jr. .258, 17, 42, 4
DH Edgar Martinez .356, 29, 113, 4
RF Jay Buhner .262, 40, 121, 0
1B Paul Sorrento[**] .235, 25, 79, 1
3B Russ Davis[**] .276, 2, 12, 0
C Dan Wilson .278, 9, 51, 2
SS Alex Rodriguez .232, 5, 19, 4


IF Luis Sojo .289, 7, 39, 4
LF Luis Polonia*[**] .261, 2, 15, 10


LH Randy Johnson 18-2, 2.48
RH Chris Bosio 10-8, 4.92
LH Sterling Hitchcock[**] 11-10, 4.70
RH Bob Wolcott (R) 3-2, 4.42
RH Edwin Hurtado[**] 5-2, 5.45


LH Norm Charlton 14, 1.51
RH Bobby Ayala 19, 4.44
RH Mike Jackson[**] 2, 2.39
LH Tim Davis 0, 6.38

*American League statistics
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie