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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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March 15, 2008 11:15 AM

Huge news out of Angels camp

Posted by Geoff Baker

Never mind the fact that Brandon Morrow has been shut down a few days to rest a tired arm (he'll play catch tomorrow and take it from there). Some major developments are happening on the AL West pitching front and coming out of Angels camp. Angels ace John Lackey is now going to be out until the month of May. Yes, that means the Angels won't have their two top starters, Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, for at least the first month of the season.

I keep hearing that Escobar might be out until June. He isn't even throwing in his team's camp right now. Working out on his own. For all of the hand-wringing about the M's offense -- and the concerns are legitimate -- Seattle now has a definitive advantage on the starting pitching front. Not so much in the bullpen, and to be honest, I'm starting to get a little nervous about the M's relief situation.

That said, my bullpen concerns are more short term than long term. Short term, a few of the arms the M's had hoped to rely on (folks like Mark Lowe, Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma and even Jon Huber) are coming off injuries. Not that any of those were critical to Seattle's chances, but if Morrow's arm fatigue turns out to be anything more serious, the bullpen will be looking a little thin.

For all the talk about whether Seattle will go with six or seven relievers, I'm not surprised the team appears to be leaning towards six. I'm having a hard time coming up with a list of seven relief names who could be ready to go 100 percent in the bullpen at the start of the year.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not panicking about Morrow. J.J. Putz was a much bigger concern a year ago when his sore elbow had prevented him from logging any Cactus League innings. What a non-issue that turned out to be. Yes, this team needs Morrow to be effective in the eighth. It needs Eric O'Flaherty to step in and fill George Sherrill's shoes. Needs Sean Green back to where he was in June and July of last season. R.A. Dickey should log some innings and take pressure off the rest of the bullpen -- in theory.

But there are still questions this relief corps will need to answer.

All that said, I'd much rather be in Seattle's shoes right now, with Morrow taking a few days off, than be an Angels squad that just lost the equivalent (or better) of Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez. The M's have somewhat of a soft schedule in April, not to mention a series against those Angels in which they should have a decisive pitching edge.

Given all that, I'd expect the M's to be in first place by the end of April -- and by a good few games to-boot. I'm serious. If not, it could be that much tougher for this club to contend once the healthy arms return to Angels fold.

This is precisely why a team should not give up on a division race in January. Even if it is viewed as a second place bet. When the gap is single digits, a team has shown it can win more than it loses and the team in front hasn't done much to better itself, expecting a break or two is not unrealistic.

The M's went out and took a chance by acquiring Bedard.

They are now in a serious position to jump all over this latest bit of Angles misfortune.

Too bad they cut Horacio Ramirez. I know an AL West team that could use him right now (OK, OK, that's stretching this post a little too far).

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Posted by dg

11:55 AM, Mar 15, 2008

Too bad they cut Horacio Ramirez. I know an AL West team that could use him right now (OK, OK, that's stretching this post a little too far).

I would love it if the Halos picked up Ramirez.

Posted by steve

11:57 AM, Mar 15, 2008

If only they would pick up Ramirez. I would bet the M's would be willing to pick up his contract if the Angels would start him.

Posted by Basebrawl

12:26 PM, Mar 15, 2008

I hope the angels sign HoRam!!! Can they pick him up for league minimum? I think thats what it would take for any one to want him right now. And some key injuries like the ones the Angels just suffered. Is our bullpen concers right now a hangover from being overworked last year? Not that our bullpen is as much a cause for worry this year as our Starting was last year and would be this year w/o the Bedard trade. Our hitting is still my biggest worry with this team. I will definitely be following players stats in the minors this season, there's to much room for roster movement right now, it will be interesting to see who is performing and who isnt from the majors down to AA.

Posted by Pete

12:29 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Only problem is, if the Angels can just squeeze out 4 runs against our superior pitching, they will likely win most of the match-ups anyway.

Posted by oregongal

12:38 PM, Mar 15, 2008

There's still a brother Weaver available, isn't there?

Posted by Egaas

12:43 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Don't see the Halos going down THAT Weaver road again.

Posted by Adam

1:00 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Yep, huge news.

We have to take advantage. We need to finish April up by four games.

Posted by helpFelix

1:03 PM, Mar 15, 2008

I like our chances of being 6-10 games up by May 1st. Don't know if that would be reasonable, but it would be nice having the Angels looking at our taillights ALL year long!

Posted by Bryan

1:13 PM, Mar 15, 2008

I don't wish ill will towards anyone, but this post just really broke my heart for the Angels.

Posted by Pete

1:15 PM, Mar 15, 2008

"I like our chances of being 6-10 games up by May 1st"...

Hahaha! I'm not sure you realize what that would take.

The Mariners play 28 games before May 1st. How bad are you expecting the Angels to play? Without Lackey and Escobar, let's say the Angels play close to .500 ball? Is that fair. Even if they are 13-15, the M's would have to be 19-9 to have even a 6 game advantage over the Angels, which is the low end of your range (6-10). ...

...Let's say the Angels really tank it and only go 11-17 before May 1st... The Mariners would have to go 21-7 to get to get your 10 game advantage!!!

Hahaha! You can't be serious...

Posted by helpFelix

1:26 PM, Mar 15, 2008

I say lets seal the deal and bring Bonds in to take advantage of this situation!

I know Geoff doesn't like that thought, but how about this scenerio:

Sign Bonds $1M Base, with $1.5M incentives every 10 HRs he hits...with an contract "out" clause.

THEN come July 1st "if" the PR and Legal issues are to much, then cut him with little loss...and then bring Clement up to fill his spot for the 2nd half!

This would accomplish several things:

1) Moves Vidro to an "expensive" bench role, but would strengthen our bench drastically.

2) Prevents Vidro's 2009 option from vesting.

3) We pickup the top CHEAP rental player out there for the next 3 months.

4) We don't want him in the 2nd half excercize your out clause and send Bonds on his way.

With the recent Lackey & Escobar news, I can see 2008 in a positive light. We just need to take the bull by the horns and follow through with this news!

Posted by Chris from Bothell

1:29 PM, Mar 15, 2008

I'm actually not happy about this at all. I've always said that a true championship team needs to be better than the margin of error. If you rely on injuries, blown calls, one game or one series to make the difference, you're not really a champion, you're just lucky.

And wasn't the mantra this offseason that the starters needed to go deeper in games? Why be worried about the bullpen when obviously the starters are regularly going to do 7+ innings every night? :) :)

Heck, let's just carry the 5 starters and JJ, and free up those other spots to carry the starting 9 of AAA Tacoma, since it's the offense that needs the most help. We can be the only home dugout in the majors with a double-decker bench...

Posted by Pete

1:31 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Oh yeah, I just remembered to ignore anything helpFelix says....

Posted by Lance

1:50 PM, Mar 15, 2008

As Hans Solo said to Luke Skywalker, "Don't get cocky kid."

Injuries happen to all teams. There's so guarantee that the M's won't go into the season with a few of their own. The question is how "key" will they be?

And, it's one month without Lackey, two without Escobar. Not anything the M's didn't have to face last year with Felix and a few others. Yet, they hung in a lot longer than most thought they would.

And, a rotation of Weaver, Garland, Sauders and an improved E.Santana isn't chopped liver. Those guys are capable of holding the fort down unto the big help gets back. They'll probably grab a 5th guy from within. Like we pulled out Baek for a few good starts last season, they could bring someone in who can help, as well.

And, above all, it's a loooooooooong season!

Posted by helpFelix

1:57 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Garland & Weaver AT BEST are only #3's, and the rest wouldn't even cut the #5 spot on most contending teams.

You do remember 2007 when Felix was out almost 8 weeks right?

With Felix being out for 2 months, Seattle hung in there until late August in the running for the division AND wildcard.

Posted by helpFelix

2:03 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Felix being out for 2 mths probably was a BIG reason why our bullpen ran down by late August last year. Felix is one of our guys that has been taking us deep into ball games.

So that injury to our team probably cost of at least a wildcard spot in 2007.

Hopefully Seattle will avoid the injury bug in 2008, but ANY TIME you take both your #1 and #2 SPs out for 1-3 months...I don't care what team it're gonna suffer!

Posted by Quinault

2:46 PM, Mar 15, 2008

This was one of the things I mentioned in the off season - the age of the Angels! And being a Vlad injury away from first. Lest we forget the improvement of the other teams in the AL West! You know that Oakland will play above their pay scale. And with money suddenly freed up with the A-Rod deal, the Rangers could be on the market again for fa rent-a-players. Pitching and defense will win games. I see Mike Morse as being a good fit and us running more this season. We need to worry about us, not rejoice on the difficulties of others.

Posted by Get Griffey

3:02 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Quinault- I say letís do both, although I donít wish pain on anyone.

Our week starting schedule + Angles injures = good news for M's.

Posted by John in Surprise

3:23 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Game is being televised on I'm not a subscriber, so I can't bring it up. Boxscore is available.

Posted by Patrick F.

5:14 PM, Mar 15, 2008

These are the kind of key injuries I'm talking about. If Vlad goes down, at any point during the year, forget about it.

If the M's stay healthy and the Angels lose one or two key guys, this could be huge.

Of course, it's a long season.

Posted by dblog

6:21 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Bedard is starting to worry me a little. 8 runs, 3 hr in 4 innings. He hasn't had a good outing yet? I know its spring, so how does this compare to his springs in Baltimore?

Posted by dblog

6:23 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Bedard is starting to worry me a little. 8 runs, 3 hr in 4 innings. He hasn't had a good outing yet? I know its spring, so how does this compare to his springs in Baltimore?

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

7:41 AM, Mar 16, 2008

Regarding Bedard Worries:

"Mariners manager John McLaren, down on the field moments ago, said he liked what Erik Bedard brought to the mound and said none of the three home runs hit off him would have made it out of Safeco Field."

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