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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 29, 2008 2:51 PM

Spring training is over!

Posted by Larry Stone

The next game the Mariners play will count in the standings. They finished up their exhibition season today with a 4-2 loss to the Cubs here in Vegas, with Kerry Wood throwing 99 mph heat in the ninth for the save. Seattle's final record is 13-16-3, which foretells absolutely nothing.

McLaren confirmed after the game that the Mariners will open the season with a Wilkerson-Morse platoon in right. He says he wants to ride Morse's hot bat and is afraid he will cool off with too much inactivity. Morse finished the spring with a .492 average, a Mariners' spring record by one point over Edgar Martinez's .491 in 1996.

McLaren also said that the lineup they used Saturday will be their Opening Day lineup (with Kenji Johjima at catcher instead of Jamie Burke). So here's how they'll line up against Kevin Millwood on Monday:

CF Ichiro

2B Jose Lopez

LF Raul Ibanez

1B Richie Sexson

3B Adrian Beltre

RF Brad Wilkerson

DH Jose Vidro

C Kenji Johjima

SS Yuniesky Betancourt

P Erik Bedard

No big surprises, because it has been apparent for a week that Lopez and Vidro were flip-flopping. Beltre made it clear he likes to hit behind a right-handed hitter, which might be why McLaren decided against the L-R-L-R combo in the middle.

Not much else to talk about. I think the Mariners are in position to win the AL West. No guarantees, of course. I picked them to win it in the newpspaper,and I probably would have even if the Angels didn't have their pitching injuries. I know a lot of people disagree. We'll have the next six months to find out who's right. Can't wait.

I'm in Vegas, folks. Good night.

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Posted by scottM

4:41 PM, Mar 29, 2008

McLaren's rationale for having Bloomquist, Cairo AND Jimerson on the big team seems to be so he can generate runs and avoid all those stranded runners that too often plagued the team last season. Time will soon tell if this is the strategy that differentiates Mac the most from Grover.

It also infers that there will be a whole lot more substituting, with slower baserunners like Vidro, Sexson, Lopez, even Johjima pulled more often and sooner once they get on base. Let's hope that this philosophy keeps everyone on their toes (Ibanez, Wilkerson, Sexson, Lopez, especially).

BTW, Jimerson had 2 steals in 2 at bats last season. Lopez had two steals all last year. Jimerson had 5 steals in ST, second only to Ichiro with 6, who had three times as many at bats.

Keep the fire lit, MAC!

Posted by Chris from Bothell

4:50 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Lucky, lucky, mother-lovin' lucky. I can't believe how lucky the F.O. was that Dickey didn't get picked up on waivers by SOMEone. Irony would have suggested the Orioles.

Poor Cairo. He's going to get booed straight into Snohomish County the first time he strikes out. Dickey's more important than a duplicate Bloomquist. Can't believe they kept Cairo over Dickey.

(Although - people keep saying Cairo is some kind of motivation for Lopez. What if Cairo is actually supposed to be motivation for Bloomquist? He's a standup guy but every once in a while he makes some minor noise about wanting to start at a position. Perhaps this is the M's way of getting more out of their super-sub?)

Was stunned to hear the word "platoon" out of Mac's mouth, without it being preceded by "I like that war movie called...". But yeah, faceplant is right - the platoon is backwards. Maybe Mac misspoke? He's not going to play the .258/.224 guy against righties, is he? Though the official MLB site lists Morse's split as .571/.364, so theoreticall even adjusting for limited major league ABs, it seems like on paper the benefits of Morse against lefties outweighs the drawbacks of Wilk against righties. Of course, this would all be simplified if Morse was in left fulltime and Raul @ DH, moving Vidro to PH. (*whack!* neigh! *whack* neigh! *whack!* neigh!)

Posted by HelpFelix

5:07 PM, Mar 29, 2008

We already have defensive issues with Ibanez in LF, but to add Morse in RF while Ibanez is in LF...OUCH!

It would make better sense to go ahead and put Morse in LF, and keep the better defense in RF...and then move Ibanez to DH. THEN Vidro goes to the bench as a PH, and relieves Sexson in a platoon split @ 1B if Sexson gets off to a rock start!

I have a feeling the reason Mac is doing the Wilkerson/Morse platoon right now is because Wilkerson's 2008 incentives are also based upon ABs. AND Morse is swinging an incredible bat on top of that too.

Ibanez AND Morse in the OF together will make for probably the weakest defensive OF in all of MLB!!!

Posted by Fin

5:13 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Yea the platoon of having Morse bat vs. lefties when Wilkerson is better against lefties is almost as stupid as having 2 Bloomquists waste space on the bench, which one of them could be an extra reliever or a better pinch hitter (Dickey or Norton).

I can't wait to see how this season turns out.

Posted by jujay

5:18 PM, Mar 29, 2008

I like the way things turned out because i think it allows some extra time to trade a few guys, and test who's working best when it comes time for guys like morrow, rhodes, norton, clement, and balentein....should be interesting to see what turns the season provides with all these options!

Posted by Patrick F.

5:25 PM, Mar 29, 2008

I'd rather see Yuni batting second than Lopez, but perhaps McClaren sees something in Lopez that I do not.

Here's hoping Big Richie and Lopez rebound, and Wilkerson and Morse contribute.

Posted by HelpFelix

5:41 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Geoff - Doesn't this cry out TRADE?!!!!

Wow, I didn't know that Dickey had to go through a waiver process that finalized today!

I am completely SHOCKED that we didn't lose him to someone like the Angels!

How the M's were able to shuffle people around (Norton, Rhodes, Reistma (if he eventually accepts a AAA spot) we were able to keep all 3 out-of-option players!

I'm sure glad Dickey made it thru waivers today! That was a HUGE gamble for Seattle to do! It turned out in Seattle's favor though.

This also SCREAMS trade! These moves just bought Seattle some time to work an early season trade. I totally expect Baek, Reed to be moved in some package soon. Reed has no future with the M's with Ichiro in the OF, you just can't have 2 non-power OFer as fulltime starters with any success.

I would be excited for a Reed/EdwinJackson trade, but the only thing with that is that Jackson is out of options too, so he would have to be on the 25-man roster immediately which means that you would have to move Baek to make room...and then we still have the Dickey issue that he should be up North with the team!

Maybe there is a couple trades in the works! Reed to TB for Jackson. AND Baek/Morse to Cincy for Griffey.

Ok, I'm not sure about them trading for Griffey "yet", but I would think that Seattle would have a number of teams wanting a combo of Baek & Morse!

"If" Reed was traded TB for Jackson & Baek/Morse elsewhere, we "could" go back to the 12-man pitching staff and keep both Jackson AND bring back Dickey "if" Baek was gone via trade!!!

Posted by drlo

5:52 PM, Mar 29, 2008

I think too much is being made of the Wilkerson/Morse platoon and, especially, Wilkerson's L/R splits. Yes, his averages are better against LHP, but his OBP and Slug, and thus his OPSs, aren't radically different. So, it is tough to argue that Wilkerson against RHP is a huge drop. Morse's L/R splits are fairly significant, so the overall benefit is clear. Having said that, I think the whole idea really is to keep Morse's hot hand in the lineup and see where it goes. If he can keep it up, then the moves that many are screaming about -- replacing Sexson if needed, playing left in place of Ibanez, DH in place of Vidro -- might well come about. The decision to platoon is a great one for all kinds of reasons, and Wilkerson's slight differences in L/R splits are irrelevant in the overall picture.

Posted by Chuck

5:55 PM, Mar 29, 2008

OK, enough with the second guessing. The decisions have been made. Lets wait until Ichero at least has an at bat before we start booing Mac, Richie, Bavasi, et al. I say play ball! and Go M's!

Posted by Nat

6:22 PM, Mar 29, 2008

HelpFelix: I wouldn't lose too much sleep over all the possibilities of trades. It might happen, but you need to understand that what seems clear, even obvious to us as fans is not necessarily the way Bavasi and Mac think. What SCREAMS trade in your mind does not mean the same to them - example - Cairo on the team as a second Bloomquist! I am glad to see Dickey is still around though I would prefer to see him on the 25-man roster now.

Still, I am trying to be open-minded about the way the roster is set up. I think the RO and bullpen are pretty good overall, and as Patrick says, if Richie and Lopez rebound and Wilkerson and Morse are able to contribute, I think we'll do okay.

Thanks for the laughs, Chris - I can hear those horses! Wouldn't it be something if BB and Mac looked at this team and didn't feel the boys needed a carrot or a stick to play a game of baseball? Just provided the kind of leadership that instilled an idea of playing up to their capabilities - or there would be consequences to follow? Um, too late for that, right, cuz that's what ST is supposed to instill in the boys - in order for BB and Mac to come up with the best roster!
Having said that, I am excited for opening day and cautiously optimistic about this next few weeks and months...!

Posted by guamtriton

6:25 PM, Mar 29, 2008

HelpFelix: How can you include Morse in any kind of package. I think that Morse is breaking out as the Organization thought he would since he showed promise last year. I think we will have Morse in RF next year full time and I can say he is a better out fielder than Jones was. Mind you I think Jones will be good but nowhere the sure fire All-Star that everyone thinks. I really think Wilkerson will play better than everyone is expecting him to. I think if need be they can have Ibanez play 1B and put Morse in LF. I am hoping Richie pulls off a good season since he has been nothing but classy and humble to say the least. He didn't blame anyone else but himself about the poor hitting and we found out much later that he was more injured than he let on to the media. We've got a good chance to have two 20 game winners this year folks!

Mariners fan stuck in Portland, Maine!

Posted by guamtriton

6:32 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Chuck: I agree let's wait and see!

Hopefully with great results! Will come the fans who deserve a winning season capped off by a long run in the Playoffs.

P.S. I officially miss Seattle. I got transferred here a year ago and I am thoroughly tired of the snow and Band wagon fans!


Posted by Lance

6:35 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Why keep Jimerson? You've got enough speed off the bench with Bloomquist and Cairo. It makes no sense.

So, now you keep the unnecessary Jimerson and have no left-handed hitter off the bench.

Wasn't having the left-handed hitting Norton come off the bench the reason for going with 11 pitchers in the first place? I thought so.

Is this Mac-logic? Bavasi-logic? I don't get it, at all.

Posted by fred

6:55 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Only a couple quibbles with the final roster: As others have pointed out, there is no need for both Bloomquist and Cairo. Cairo can run and is a decent slap hitter but cannot any longer field.
Baek and Vidro are obvious trade bait---if anyone would take Vidro at his salary. If Vidro is traded, Ibanez can move to DH, improving outfield defense. Morse also could end up playing first base if Sexson resumes 2008 as a Statue of Limitations. Dickey and Morrow should be on the roster within a month, and perhaps Rhodes too. But others will have to be moved first.

Posted by CMH

7:10 PM, Mar 29, 2008

It's my understanding a team can pull a player off waivers if he is claimed and put him back on the roster. I have to believe the M's would have done so with Dickey. Bavasi timed the transaction well and lucked out.

Posted by Zach C

7:16 PM, Mar 29, 2008

lance- Jimerson can play center, willie cant. Do you reallly want to throw willie out there for 30 games this season? saw that one comming a long time ago, with him there are two CFer; it wouldnt be smart leave that position uncovered when Ichiro needs a rest

I don't mind Cairo, you guys are redundant. Everyone knows hes willie all over again, but thats what Mac wanted, it was probably his choice or his suggestion to BB. He wanted more flexibility and he got it. No doubt this is a really flexible bench, and on an AL team thats all you really dont need a bat off the bench, you stack hitters in your linup for a reason

say what you want, but BB and Mac have put together a team that is capable of winning (with a little help from unlucky LAA), and anything less will be disapointing. This team is solid in every aspect, maybe not great but solid, in some more than others. But im sure you guys wont hesitate to disagree and boo when they inevitably sputter; youll be eatin some crow when its all over tho

Posted by scottM

7:28 PM, Mar 29, 2008

from Fred: "if Sexson resumes 2008 as a Statue of Limitations."


Posted by BraveLittleTailor

7:41 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Im disappointed Dickey didnt make the team just from an entertainment point of view. It would have been fun to see what happened with the knuckler. I trust the M's made the right decision though and Dickey wasnt one of our best 11 pitchers.
The only other thing about the roster is that it really bothers me that we dont have a legit ph option off of the bench. To me, thats the single most important skill a bench player can have (other than being able to fill in for injuries/time off). If we dont have a pinch hitter to get on base, we wont have any need for a pinch runner!

Posted by mickey

7:46 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Looks like the Mariners made their selections to keep from giving up players while retaining folks in their system. If the Mariners made a trade for Dickey, no wavers were involved if I understand what happened.

The half life of a 25 man roster is only a couple of weeks until the first person gets injured or those sent down are deemed ready to play.

Posted by oregongal

9:05 PM, Mar 29, 2008

About a month ago, I picked the Mariners for 85-90 wins and I don't see any reason to change that. Given that we're in the AL West, all we have to do is beat LAAAAAAA to get in the playoffs. After watching Scioscia managing through injuries last year, I don't think it's going to be easy, but if we can stay healthy, we should be able to do it. (There, Donovan, my pre-season optimism!)

My hunch is that Yuni'll have a breakout season. If Lopez needs to be pushed, I think that'll do it more than having half-baked second basemen around. Don't get me wrong, I like having Willie Bloomquist around, I think he's really valuable off the bench. I don't think he's a play every day to the playoffs guy, though.

I hope Lopez doesn't need the push, but I need to keep some of my optimism for Sexson (I think he'll rebound but not be good), Ibanez (hit well, but regress some at bat and still make me curse his defense) and Wilkerson/Morse (better defense, and please give us some runs).

Please stay healthy, Ichiro and Kenji, and Beltre, take care of your thumb.

Given that we're built on starting pitching, if that doesn't work, all bets are off. But we do have an intriguing knuckler waiting to come and eat innings for us.

Let's get off to a fast start.

Posted by Donovan

10:35 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Some quick comments on the above:

Re: Cairo. It is only the denizens of this blog that are going to be booing him the first time he strikes out. The average M's fan only knows that he's a veteran brought in for mentoring and leadership (as reported by the Times), and that he played for a bunch of teams, including the Yankees. That's going to be good enough for most of them. Don't assume that because we overanalyze everything here than most other people do.

Re: Baek. Good on Bavasi for figuring out a way to keep some value there. I know it is amusing to characterize Bill as a subhuman buffoon, but he has been around MLB his whole life. He knows a few tricks. I think this is trade maneuvering, but you need a partner to make a deal, so we'll see. Either way, having extra pitchers with MLB potential, flawed or not, isn't a bad thing.

Re: Optimism. What Oregongal said. Health and pitching. That's what will win or lose the Division for the M's. One thing I know for sure, on Monday afternoon, when Erik throws the first pitch, we will be tied for first. I think there's a good chance that might still be true on Tues. One game at a time. I don't think this season will be boring.

Posted by Get Griffey

10:47 PM, Mar 29, 2008

I am SOOO happy we still get Beck and R.A.!!

Come on Moose lead us to the Promised Land.

Posted by RustyJohn

12:00 AM, Mar 30, 2008

Mentoring? I think the Mariners bigger problem isn't mentoring, but getting people on base. They seem to have addressed this by getting one of the weakest benches in the league and by not upgrading at any offensive positions. So Cairo played for NYY? He sucked there too.

Posted by BandwagonJumper

8:15 AM, Mar 30, 2008

Surprised a little with the roster but pretty happy with it. I hope the M's go out and do what they did in 2001 and just win series, don't have to have long winnning streaks just series wins.

Go M'sssssssssss, here to a good season. Hopefully Moday is a nice day and I can pick up the game on the radio while I work.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

8:52 AM, Mar 30, 2008

A lot of us here are quick to jump all over Bavasi, myself included. But if he actually made a smart move in this instance, he should get credit for it. So, Larry or Geoff, could you please clear up this whole waiver issue regarding Dickey? Did he actually clear waivers? If so, and another team claimed him, could Bavasi have pulled him back?

Posted by Swung On And Belted

8:57 AM, Mar 30, 2008

should read: " If not, and another team claimed him, could Bavasi have pulled him back? "

Posted by jujay

9:49 AM, Mar 30, 2008

Interesting note: Everyone on baseball tonight picked the Mariners to win the AL West!

Posted by gk91

10:30 AM, Mar 30, 2008

spring training means nothing, except when it comes to Morse's 'hot bat'. That's some strange Morse code there.

Posted by Lance

11:20 AM, Mar 30, 2008

Zach, do you really think Willie is going to play 30 games in CF this year? Have you never heard of Ichiro Suzuki?

If we're keeping Jimerson around to play centerfield, it's definitely a wasted roster spot.

I've got no issue with Charlton personally. I'm happy for the guy. I just don't see where he's needed in any way, shape, or form. Or, just what he did in ST to EARN the job.

Posted by Mr. X

11:33 AM, Mar 30, 2008

So, to sum up, we have 3 alleged utility players, 1 backup catcher, and one pinch runner on the bench. Three guys who can back up the infield, and 4 guys who can play (term used loosely) the outfield. Zero guys who can hit a home run. When did we move to the inferior National League? I know that a bench won't make or break a team, but I'm still hoping that this is a temporary thing, and maybe Bavasi will try to "sell high" with Morse and a couple of other players.

On the bright side, this is the first time in the Bavasi era when no NRI's made the team. In fact it's the first time that 2 or more of them didn't make the final roster. I'm also pleasantly surprised that failed prospect R.A. Dickey didn't make the team. I know that most were having multiple orgasms over the idea of having a knuckleballer as our long reliever, but if he doesn't have it working 3 out of 5 relief appearances, that means that someone else would have to step in. I see him as adequate depth at the #5 starter spot, but that's it. He's too big of a risk to be counted on as the long reliever.

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