It’s that time of the week where the readers choose the subject of what is written. And they may think they are in control of this question and answer extravaganza, but to quote the philosophy Rowdy Roddy Piper: “Just when you think you’ve got all the answers, I change the questions.”
OK, that’s not really the case. I just like that quote.
As always, these are real questions submitted by Twitter followers who may or may not be real.
The situation is suboptimal. There was a time in spring training where some wondered how they were going to find enough starts and innings at the major-league level for Swanson and Sheffield with five starters already locked into the rotation.
But injuries are so common with pitchers that you should automatically assume that you’ll use at least eight to 10 different starting pitchers to cover a 162-game season.
If you remember the crazy 2017 season, the Mariners used a total of 40 pitchers, including 17 different pitchers to start a game. That’s a little extreme.
All that prefacing is basically to hide the fact that no one is quite sure who will take that last spot in the rotation and pitch on Tuesday in Texas. It won’t be Justus Sheffield, who pitched 5 2/3 innings on Friday night, allowing three runs on three hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Realistically, if Sheffield was pitching with more efficiency and success, the decision would be simple. But the Mariners’ top prospect has yet to find consistent command of fastball. There are periods of two and three innings in starts where it seems Sheffield might have found that consistency to push him to reaching his vast potential. But it hasn’t been sustained.
Of nine outings – eight with Class AAA Tacoma and one with Seattle, he’s walked three or more batters in all but one where he walked two. He’s been efficient and effective enough to pitch in the seventh inning in just one start.
Do the Mariners really want to put Sheffield in the rotation knowing he doesn’t have consistent command to combat the best hitters in the world? It would seem counterproductive to the concept of proper development.
Since it’s not Sheffield filling that spot … for now, it leaves a handful of veterans with MLB experience on minor-league deals that could step in and fill the spot until Felix Hernandez returns or Sheffield pitches well enough to join the rotation. The caveat with one of those pitchers is that the Mariners would have to open a spot on their full 40-man roster. There are certainly players on the 40-man roster that have played or pitched their way into a situation where they could be designated for assignment to clear a space. Nick Rumbelow previously led that list. But right-hander Ruben Alaniz is a DFA possibility if needed.
Tacoma’s current starting rotation features left-handers Tommy Milone and Jonathan Niese and right-handers Christian Bergman and Tyler Cloyd. It’s not exactly inspiring pool to choose from.
Milone might be the best possible candidate. He started on Thursday for the Rainiers, meaning he’d be on normal rest for Tuesday’s outing. Milone has made 130 starts and 21 relief appearances in his career with a 46-37 record and 4.432 ERA. He’s currently 4-2 with a 3.83 ERA for Tacoma. He’d fit right in as a command and pitch-to-feel lefty to go with Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc. Having three pitchers so similar isn’t an ideal situation. But this is where the Mariners are at as a team.
Bergman’s scheduled turn for the Rainiers is Monday though it’s listed as “to be determined” in their probables. That could be due to his struggles. He never made it out of the first inning in his last start, giving up six runs on six hits. He has an 8.31 ERA in six starts with Tacoma.
A strong possibility is that the Mariners make a “bullpen” start on Tuesday and then reassess the situation, using the offday on Thursday to help re-slot the starters.
It’s not something they are opposed to doing, but right now they don’t even have five starters to fill out their rotation. But in the future, it’s something they could consider. They might go with a 5 ½ man rotation where Swanson could be the swing pitcher called up at various points to make the extra start.
It doesn’t seem as though they will abandon the one-inning starts for Kikuchi. They like the idea of having him doing his regular routine leading up to the outing. They want to keep him on that schedule as part of that development program.
One thing to note is that the Mariners will also be monitoring the usage of Swanson and Sheffield this season. While they don’t have set totals, Seattle probably won’t let either pitcher exceed the 155-160 innings plateau this season Swanson threw a career-high 121 2/3 innings in 2018. The Mariners will push him past the total as part of the progression, but the usual rule is only about 30 innings more than the year before. Sheffield has thrown 115-plus innings the last three seasons. He’s a little more built up. But they won’t push him to the 170s.
In that way, a six-man rotation late in the season could be beneficial to control the usage of Kikuchi, Sheffield and Swanson.
Much of that decision will be based on the health of the starting pitchers available. But right now this early in the season and with Felix Hernandez on the injured list, a six-man rotation doesn’t seem as a viable.
Given the current roster set-up, that would seem like the logical decision. In the days before Kyle Seager made that awkward and painful diving attempt on a groundball in a Cactus League game on March 8 where he injured his hand, it was very clear that Ryon Healy was ticketed for Tacoma as the odd man out on a roster that featured three other first baseman/designated hitter-type players. It was the price of being the only one with minor league options.
Barring a setback on his rehab stint, Seager is expected to be activated from the 60-day injured list when he’s eligible to return on May 25.
And it’s very possible that Healy is optioned to Tacoma unless general manager Jerry Dipoto is able to swing a trade for Edwin Encarnacion or Jay Bruce before then. Even with the power that Encarnacion is showing – .840 OPS and 12 homers – that doesn’t appear likely to happen.
Given how much money they are owed and the still hopeful possibility of trading Encarnacion or Bruce, the Mariners aren’t going to designate them for assignment. Given their service time, Seattle would have to pay the remaining dollars owed on their entire contract when cleared waivers. Bruce is under contract for 2020 as well.
Even after his hot start, Healy has fallen back to putting up numbers typical to his career. He’s got a .233/.290/.465 slash line with 16 doubles, seven homers and 25 RBIs. His walk rate is slightly up and his strikeout rate is incrementally down, which are good trends. But it isn’t enough to keep him up in a roster-crunch situation.
Had the Yankees not recently signed Kendrys Morales, perhaps trading Healy or Tim Beckham to New York might have been an option. With Giancarlo Stanton heading out on a rehab stint as well, the need isn’t quite as great. Healy’s numbers, which were mentioned above, don’t garner much value on a regular market. But a contending team that has a major injury to a first or third baseman changes the market. Healy would be a cheap replacement.
Beckham’s bat, which has cooled off some, still has some value. His batting average has dipped to .253, but an .802 OPS with 12 doubles, eight homers and 21 RBIs is attractive to teams. A .325/.357/.600 slash line vs. left-handed pitching makes him a perfect platoon candidate for a team with some versatility. Obviously his struggles at shortstop are a detractor. But most teams, the Mariners included, don’t believe he’s an everyday shortstop. His best role is as a back-up infielder that can fill in at all four infield spots when a left-handed starting pitcher is on the mound.
It would seem that when Dylan Moore is activated from the disabled list, he’ll be optioned to Tacoma and Beckham will assume the role of utility infielder with J.P. Crawford serving as the every day shortstop.
A comeback to what? It seems like that’s relative to what you believe this team is capable of being. But the team that went 13-2 to start the season isn’t coming back again. That was an outlier aided by a stretch against bad teams with worse pitching.
But this team is full capable of being vastly more competitive than it’s been in the last 25 games. The offense has power and the potential to be explosive, particularly against back of the rotation starters.
The return of Seager and the decision to make Crawford the everyday shortstop should improve the infield defense significantly. The outfield defense can only get better since it can’t get worse.
As for the bullpen, Sam Tuivailala is inching toward a return. He’ll bring an experienced power arm to the back-end to join Roenis Elias and Brandon Brennan. Hard-throwing right-hander Gerson Bautista could help in middle innings. He also has minor league options, which gives the Mariners roster flexibility.
To quote Hickory High head coach Norman Dale: “This is your team.”
To quote my little league coach Edward Divish: “You better figure something out because this (expletive) isn’t working.”
The trio of Domingo Santana, Mallex Smith and Mitch Haniger is the outfield as of now and the immediate future. Seattle went out and acquired Santana and Smith for reasons – most of them on offense.
There is a belief that Santana’s struggles are based on never playing left field before as a professional. The angle of the ball coming off the bat of right-handers has given him trouble, particularly the hooking line drives. The errors where he drops what appears to be routine balls are believed to be correctable with more focus and repetition. The Mariners don’t expect Santana to be a Gold Glove left-fielder like Alex Gordon. But they believe he can improve to the point where isn’t considered a liability like some of the past Mariners that played in that same spot. The mistakes are a little easier to overlook when Santana is mashing homers and driving in runs.
Smith’s issues are curious, but not surprising per some opposing scouts. Several point to Smith’s head movement as he tracks fly balls. He doesn’t glide to balls like top outfielders with his speed. The drops on flyballs and lineouts that appear to be in the palm or pocket of his glove are odd. Most feel that’s just an anomaly that is correctable. Smith has put in plenty of work to get better in the outfield. But the struggles at the plate are also a concern. Smith is striking out in 28.8 percent of his at-bats, which is an alarming number. The Mariners are going to give him opportunities to prove that he’s either an everyday outfielder or a fourth outfielder. That’s the purpose of this sort of season.
If the Mariners have one player that is predominantly the designated hitter, it should be Daniel Vogelbach. As mentioned above, the Mariners believe that given Santana’s athleticism, underrated speed and strong arm, he can be a viable left fielder with some work and game experience. He has more tools to be an average outfielder than Vogelbach does to be an average first baseman. Vogelbach’s best position is hitter and the Mariners should do everything to allow him to focus on that.
Going into Saturday, the Rainiers had committed the third most errors in the Pacific Coast League with 39. Shed Long had committed five errors – four at second base and one at third base — to lead the team.
I didn’t expect Kyle Lewis to make his MLB debut until perhaps mid-2020. Think about how much his development was sidetracked with the series of knee issues he’s dealt with over the past few seasons. It’s not just about games missed. It’s about all those hours in the cage and on the field during the season, spring training and the offseason. He’s trying to catch up to players that have played uninterrupted for the past two seasons.
This was the first time in his professional career that he had a full spring training after being drafted in 2016. The biggest goals for the Mariners and Lewis should be playing a full minor league season, go into the offseason healthy where he can focus on something other than rehabbing an injury and then use that to make a major step forward during the 2020 season perhaps starting with Class AAA Tacoma and then eventually making it up to the big leagues.
The trajectory of Lewis’ development has been skewed so it should be expected for him to have a modified trajectory to the big leagues.
Gilbert was considered one of the most advanced college pitchers in the 2018 draft when the Mariners selected him with the 14th overall pick. There was always a thought that he’d be a fast mover through the system. But making his debut in 2020 might be a little quick, though by the end of 2020 might not be an impossibility.
Given his heavy workload in his junior season at Stetson University, the Mariners weren’t going to have him make more than one start for Short-Season Everett last season before shutting him down and getting him ready for their high-performance camp. But a case of mononucleosis scuttled that plan.
The Mariners did a wise thing by starting Gilbert at Low-A West Virginia this season instead of High-A Modesto. It allowed him to ease into his first season of professional baseball, have solid success and then move up to a level with players closer to his age range.
Since going to Modesto, Gilbert is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in two starts. A sprained ankle suffered during workouts put him on the injured list. It would seem logical to let him finish out the rest of the season with the Nuts. But if he were to dominate at that level for a period of 10-12 starts, then maybe a move to Class AA Arkansas might be made. But there’s no reason to rush his development.
If Gilbert makes his debut late in 2021 or early 2022, that’s still a good path that fits the Mariners’ overall plan.
It would seem like Vogelbach since teammates laud his sense of humor. While he controls his personality around the media in interviews, we do see the playful side come out in his interactions with teammates. Jay Bruce has been around and has so many stories, he could keep you entertained for hours on Ken Griffey Jr. stories alone. But I’ll go with Vogelbach.
Everyone would say Clearwater Beach, which is pretty cool but also very crowded. Try St. Pete Beach. It’s a cool little area with plenty of bars, including Jimmy B’s and Swigwam Beach Bar, and isn’t quite as crowded.
As for food, Greg Johns of MLB.com and I love Cajun food. So we go to Chief Creole’s for lunch and get gumbo or jambalaya. Locale Market is a cool little spot that has variety of offerings, but get the fried chicken sandwich. The Mill and The Galley are also outstanding spots.
I’ve never watched a single minute of Game of Thrones. It’s not that I don’t want to or think I’m somehow a better person for not watching it. But once you fall behind in that situation, it’s hard to catch up. Perhaps I’ll binge it in the offseason.
I’m just finishing the most recent seasons of Peaky Blinders on Netflix. I’ve got two seasons of Ray Donovan saved and a season of Bosch to also watch. An underrated show from Showtime is House of Lies, which isn’t to be confused with House of Cards. House of Lies features Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell, who I’ve loved since she was Veronica Mars, which is also coming back this season. I’m so far behind on the popular television shows. I woke up one day and I just became the old guy out of touch with popular things. It’s sad.
The single most important development in my travel life is Spotify Premium. Being able to make your own playlists and download them for offline usage is worth every penny I’ve paid. That subscription ranks higher than Netflix in my life.
I’ve written about it before. I’m a pretty big fan of Red Dirt country, which is music from Texas and Oklahoma bands as well as “Americana.” I leave the metal, hip-hop and rock for workouts.
My playlists on Spotify are pretty eclectic. I have one filled with Peal Jam songs and concerts and another playlist of nothing but songs from Oasis. And following the lead of Rob Fleming, the main protagonist in the book “High Fidelity,” many of my playlists are autobiographical, meaning important songs during certain periods of life. Hell, there’s even a playlist filled with nature sounds for when I’m having issues with my ADD and the surrounding noise causing me to struggle even more with my concentration.
Traveling for work isn’t that bad. Many people will say, “Oh, I could never deal with the travel.” But I could never deal with working a job from 8 to 5 every day. People have an amazing ability to adjust and adapt to what is required in life. So dealing with the chaos of airports, flight delays and cancellations, a person in the middle seat with their elbow in your rib cage, hotel beds, eating out for every meal and multiple time zones becomes somewhat normal and expected.
Like anything you get better at traveling the more you do it. And when you accumulate status with airlines and hotels, it makes it that much easier. One thing I’ve learned is that getting mad or upset about flight delays or cancellations or hotel rooms not being ready does no good. It’s out of your control and yelling at the person working the counter does nothing but make you look like an entitled jackass. Nobody else cares if you are inconvenienced. It’s not their fault a plane is delayed or a flight is cancelled. Those things make their job worse, so why add to their misery. I stay relatively sane because it’s become normal to me, well, unless someone brings a meal on a plane that includes fish or the person next to me removes their shoes and socks. Leave your damn socks on.
It’s really sweet. It’s a unique flavor for sure. You could do it for a shot or maybe sip on it. A few of my friends really like it and often mix it with diet ginger ale. I’ve also had it mixed with diet cream soda, which is good. Use diet soda to offset the sweetness. But it’s not the type of booze I would drink neat or even on ice because of the sweetness factor.
My gut says the field, my head says Eastern Washington University and my heart says the University of Montana.
Hard times aren’t losing 100 games in a season for three years in a row when you are doing it on purpose. Hard times aren’t the Mariners struggling in the step-back season. Hard times are what the American Dream Dusty Rhodes tells you are hard times.