A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE MARINERS
The toughest thing is going to be fending off all the trade rumors and noise surrounding Felix Hernandez, since every contender is going to want him—as they should. He's as good as it gets. The other big problem for them will be scoring runs.... Justin Smoak is a better player than he showed last year. He was a top prospect with tremendous plate discipline, but he was swinging 2 and 0, 3 and 1, and popping balls up early in the count. He'll be better after having a chance to sit back and think a little bit.... Ichiro is still one of the most fit guys in the league. He's 37, but I don't expect a drop-off from him at all.... They say Milton Bradley has a new attitude, but this spring I saw him pick up a foul ball, acting like he was going to toss it to the 20 fans hollering for it, and then throw it into the dugout. Whenever you think he's seen the light, he does something to remind you of the old Milton.... They were talking about batting Franklin Gutierrez third, but he's truly a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He's a fantastic centerfielder but a contact, gap-type hitter, not built for power.... Erik Bedard is pitching like the guy he was before he got hurt. He's back to throwing all his pitches—fastball, curveball, slider and changeup—from the same arm slot.... Dustin Ackley is going to be a run producer, but his feet just don't work very well at second base.... Michael Pineda is 6'7", but he looks like he's 6'10" out on the mound, everything's on top of you in a hurry. I'd put him in the fifth spot, where you can protect a young guy and monitor his innings.
WITH 2010 STATISTICS
MANAGER ERIC WEDGE
1ST SEASON WITH MARINERS
(R) ROOKIE (DOUBLE AND TRIPLE A STATS)
Safeco Field's offensive ballpark factor last season; it was the second-most difficult park to score in after Tropicana Field (.800). Opponents had almost as much trouble there as the Mariners. Seattle's home ERA was 3.37, the AL's second best.
The Mariners made one of the best trades of the off-season, acquiring the premier defensive shortstop in baseball, Brendan Ryan, from the Cardinals in exchange for a second-tier pitching prospect. The plan was to play Ryan at second base, but credit manager Eric Wedge with an excellent decision in the waning days of spring training: He made Ryan the starting shortstop and shifted veteran incumbent Jack Wilson to second. Whether Wilson adapts to his new position or not, he shouldn't be long for the lineup. The Mariners' best configuration would feature Ryan at short and phenom Dustin Ackley, their 2009 first-round pick and a line drive machine, at second, where he would bring a welcome jolt of offense. Wilson, meanwhile, has to be moved—to another team, to the waiver wire, to backup beer vendor. Playing two glove men at the same time is a luxury the Mariners, who were awful at the plate a year ago, cannot afford. The Mariners need Wilson to show early in the season that he can handle second, in the hopes that a team needing middle infield help will take the veteran and his $5 million salary off their hands.
JOHN BIEVER (ICHIRO)
LENNY IGNELZI/AP (RYAN)