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When lefthander Jeff Fassero was with the Expos last season, he
lost 11 games in which the anemic Montreal offense produced a
total of 20 runs. So it's no wonder that Fassero thought he'd
died and gone to heaven when he was traded to the Mariners on
Oct. 30. After all, Seattle scored 993 runs last year, more than
any other team, and averaged 6.2 runs per game. "It's like going
from riding on a go-kart to driving a stock car," Fassero says.
"This lineup is a pitcher's dream."

Acquiring Fassero became the Mariners' primary goal following a
season in which they learned a difficult lesson: When you own a
Big Unit, you better have some Big Unit insurance. Seattle ace
Randy Johnson made just eight starts before succumbing to a
bulging disk and having back surgery that sidelined him for the
rest of the season. Without Johnson, who was 5-0 and had 85
strikeouts in his brief 1996 stint, the Mariners wound up using
16 other pitchers as starters, and the staff combined for a 5.21
ERA, the worst in club history. Even all those brawny bats
couldn't take Seattle (86-76) back to the playoffs.

With Johnson's pitching career up in the air, the Mariners
needed a durable starter like Fassero, who last season threw
more complete games (five) than the Seattle staff (four). He
also had a career-high 15 wins and 222 strikeouts, with just 55
walks and a 3.30 ERA, in 34 starts. "He keeps the ball down, has
great movement and throws strikes," says Mariners manager Lou
Piniella. "We figured that was a formula to win in any league."

In addition to Fassero, Seattle has three other
starters--lefthander Jamie Moyer and righthanders Scott Sanders
and Dennis Martinez--who were not with the team last spring. The
veteran rotation has 50 years of major league experience,
compared with the 10 years the 1996 Opening Day rotation had.
Piniella, who formerly managed the Yankees and the Reds,
believes this is the best staff he has taken into a season.

The Mariners are hoping that the Fassero deal turns out as well
as the trade they made with Montreal eight years ago. In that
transaction Seattle dealt lefthander Mark Langston to the Expos
for three pitchers, righthanders Brian Holman and Gene Harris
and a 6'10" lefty who at the time had an 0-4 record and a 6.67

After seven minor league seasons in whistle-stops like Johnson
City, Springfield and Canton-Akron, Fassero reached the majors
at age 28. "Then when I got to Montreal, it was tough because I
realized that the Expos couldn't afford to make the moves
necessary to put us over the top," Fassero says. "The Mariners
have shown they will do whatever they can to get us into the
World Series."

Fassero can point to himself as evidence. Mariners brass insists
it was a fluke that the Fassero deal was announced on the day
New York City held a ticker-tape parade to honor the World
Series champion Yankees. "Oh, no, we weren't trying to rain on
Mr. Steinbrenner's parade," says Seattle general manager Woody
Woodward, "but we do hope that a guy like Fassero might help us
get our own parade."




2B Joey Cora
Has to improve 1996 on-base percentage of .340

SS Alex Rodriguez
Led league in five offensive categories, including batting

CF Ken Griffey Jr.
49 homers and 140 RBIs despite missing 20 games

DH Edgar Martinez
Back-to-back 52-double seasons

RF Jay Buhner
Known for slugging but won Gold Glove in '96

1B Paul Sorrento
Six career grand slams, including three last season

C Dan Wilson
Top defender had breakout season (.285, 18 HRs) at plate

3B Russ Davis
Former Yankees prospect must improve on .234 average

LF Lee Tinsley
Holding the spot until Jose Cruz Jr. is ready

Ace Randy Johnson
Recovery from back surgery key to Seattle's '97 success

Closer Norm Charlton
Blew 7 of 27 save chances; might share role with Bobby Ayala


Last season the Orioles set the single-season record for home
runs, with 257, but the Mariners set the season mark for
extra-base hits, with 607. In fact, four of the top five team
totals for extra-base hits in major league history were attained
in 1996 by American League clubs: Seattle, Baltimore (585),
Cleveland (576) and Texas (576). The previous record of 580
extra-base hits was held by the 1936 Yankees.