Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker back. Jack Zduriencik had tried to add depth to our starting rotation with veteran pitchers Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, but as Spring Training went on, I think it was clear to everyone that these pitchers were not going to be needed past April. The writing was on the wall and both Baker and Wolf knew it. Both veterans walked off the job and decided they would be better suited as free agents than ride the bench with the Mariners.
With newcomer Roenis Elias making the team out of AA ball and James Paxton returning to the rotation after his September call up last year, there were really only questions on two spots. When healthy, those spots belong to Kuma and Walker. Until then, the Mariners decided to go with Erasmo Ramirez and also signed veteran right hander Chris Young.
We have yet to see Young pitch after Friday nights game was cancelled due to horrible field conditions at the O.CO Coliseum. Felix resumed after the normal 5 days of rest and the rotation will follow suit. Which means, we won't see Young for almost a week. Currently, Young would be the odd man out at the end of the month but it will be a battle over that 5th spot. Every start by the Mariners has been fantastic thus far, with Felix clinching his second victory of the year today. In the five starts, the Mariners have not allowed over 3 runs in a game. I'd say, things are looking pretty promising for our starting rotation.
Our bullpen is the only reason we lost a game at all. Spoiling the MLB debut of Elias, our bullpen allowed 2 runs through 7 innings after heading to the 12th inning and handing the ball to Hector Noesi. In just two pitches we watched Coco Crisp circle the bases with a walk off homerun and the M's were handed their first loss. The following day, Noesi was handed his walking papers as he was designated for assignment. To date, no team has picked him up and may very well be pitching in Tacoma by next weekend.
Tom Wilhelmsen has been the other question mark in the bullpen. Nobody can deny that he has complete nasty stuff, but finding the mojo that he once had as our closer has been the struggle. He's been hit and hit hard, especially in close games. We'll just have to wait and see how short the leash is on 'The Bartender".
Offensively, the Mariners poured in on in Los Angeles. With a total of 26 runs over the course of three games, it seemed as though the Mariners were never going to lose a game. Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak looked like perennial all-stars and Brad Miller and Abraham Almonte set the tone early and often for the team. Since coming to Oakland, things have been a tad bit quieter due to the Athletics pitching staff but the Mariners have been doing enough everyday to put themselves in position for the win.
In each of the first 5 games I have watched the offense really learn from their at bats. The second and third times through the lineup is when the M's seem to pour it on and really start crushing the ball.
It's not just their hitting that has been getting it done either. The Mariners have been aggressive on the base paths as well. Stretching singles into doubles, advancing on throws and trying to steal bases. It's not just an improved offense, it's an offense that is putting a product on the field that is fun to watch.
After 5 games we look at a 4 and 1 record with a starting rotation that is 4 and 0. We look at an offense that is much improved and for more reasons than just Robinson Cano. Were looking at a manager in Lloyd McClendon that isn't just sitting around hoping that guys like Noesi fix whatever they need to fix. It's a brand new feeling. A feeling that Mariner fans have not felt in a long time and we can only hope that this same type of atmosphere will continue.
I don't want to be a total homer and say that the Mariners are going to the World Series because we've had a great week, but maybe I can take a saying out of the book from a well known Seattle favorite and ask; "Why not us?"
Our rotation will and maybe already does surpass most in baseball and if our offense can continue to do what they have done in this first week then we would be a lock to win the division. We just have no idea if our offense is going to sustain this level of play or not. If were even remotely close to it, then we as fans are in for a ride. For now, I'm just happy that baseball is back! True to the Blue!