Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the San Francisco Giants

news

Giants News

Inbox: Will Mariners consider 6-man rotation?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers fans' questions
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

Will the Mariners go to a six-man rotation?
Rick F., Spokane, Wash.

They definitely are looking into the possibility, but only in parts of the season when they'd be playing long stretches of games without any days off. The new schedule has more off-days, so that will happen less now. But when there are stretches without a break -- there are five spans of 10-plus consecutive games this coming season -- they'll consider bringing up a starter from Triple-A Tacoma or going with a long man from the bullpen in the right scenario.

Will the Mariners go to a six-man rotation?
Rick F., Spokane, Wash.

They definitely are looking into the possibility, but only in parts of the season when they'd be playing long stretches of games without any days off. The new schedule has more off-days, so that will happen less now. But when there are stretches without a break -- there are five spans of 10-plus consecutive games this coming season -- they'll consider bringing up a starter from Triple-A Tacoma or going with a long man from the bullpen in the right scenario.

The idea will be keeping starters like Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Mike Leake and Erasmo Ramirez fresher and healthier, taking some of the innings and pressure off younger guys such as Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore and allowing a guy like Ariel Miranda to pitch more effectively whether he makes the rotation or rotates between Seattle and Tacoma.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

What bench battles do you see playing out this spring? And what about first-base scenarios?
Dennis L., Mukilteo, Wash.

If the Mariners go with an eight-man bullpen, as they'd like to do, that really leaves the bench competition pretty clear-cut. They'll need to identify a backup catcher from between Mike Marjama and David Freitas and a utility infielder between Taylor Motter, Andrew Romine and perhaps Gordon Beckham. The other question would seem to be whether Guillermo Heredia's shoulder is recovered in time to be the fourth outfielder. If not, that position would be up for grabs initially.

If they instead go with a seven-man bullpen, that opens up the possibility of a backup first baseman making the club behind Ryon Healy, with Rule 5 Draft pick Mike Ford and Daniel Vogelbach in the mix as left-handed complements to the righty-hitting Healy.

Video: Vogelbach on his 2017 Major League experience

The Mariners' lineup seems strong, especially one through five. If the bottom of the order produces and the bullpen can pitch as well as it's capable of, is the starting rotation good enough for the Mariners to contend for the top Wild Card spot?
Blake L., Corvallis, Ore.

That's clearly the million-dollar question. It's worth remembering that the Mariners won 86 games in 2016, and everyone thought they'd be better last year until injuries decimated the rotation. And the Twins got the final Wild Card berth with 85 wins. In my estimation, Seattle now has a better lineup and bullpen. And while I'd like to see another starter added as well, I'm not as down on the rotation as most fans appear to be.

Mariners' rotation loaded with upside, depth

Clearly the Astros have the best rotation in the division (and arguably the American League). If you look at Baseball-Reference's WAR projections for 2018, the Angels have the second-best rotation now that they've added Shohei Ohtani, with the Mariners a close third, the Rangers fourth and A's fifth. But the Angels' projected five starters were a combined 9-13 with a 4.50 ERA last year in 41 starts and have even more health questions than the Mariners.

Ohtani certainly should help, but he also has injury questions. And while Paxton has had a hard time staying healthy for a full season, the Angels' No. 1 starter, Garrett Richards, has pitched in just 12 games over the past two years, and their No. 3 starter, Andrew Heaney, has totaled six starts in two seasons. The Rangers have even more questions than the Mariners and Angels in their rotation and need work in the bullpen as well. So while I have questions about the Mariners' rotation, I don't think their pitching situation is quite as outmanned as the general perception.

With the Astros, Indians, Yankees, Red Sox and Angels all getting better this year, is it time to rebuild?
Michael W., Scottsdale, Ariz.

I guess it depends on your definition of "rebuild." General manager Jerry Dipoto has made 62 trades in 28 months since becoming general manager, and only eight players remain from the 40-man roster he inherited at the end of 2015. The Mariners had the oldest roster in MLB in '16 -- they had 12 players age 32 or older -- but now are actually one of the younger teams in the AL, with just four players 32 or older.

A lot of rebuilding has already been done, and it's time to see how that younger core of 20-somethings -- guys like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, Mike Zunino, Edwin Diaz, Paxton, Dee Gordon and Healy -- can step up around the veteran holdovers of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Hernandez.

Do you think Miranda has a chance at a starting job after last season's struggles?
Mike M., Spanaway, Wash.

If things go to plan, I suspect Miranda will open the season with Tacoma. Of course, that was the plan last year as well before injuries hit so hard that Miranda not only made the Opening Day roster, he wound up pitching the most innings of any Seattle starter, going 8-7 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 160 innings over 31 outings (29 starts).

Video: HOU@SEA: Miranda doesn't allow a hit over six strong

While his ERA wasn't pretty, I think Miranda is quite capable of helping out -- and likely will again at some point. Last year was his first as a full-time starter in the Majors, and he was 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 17 starts over the first three months before clearly wearing down and posting a 7.23 ERA in his last 14 appearances. Miranda is a quiet guy, but he's a pretty fierce competitor, and I wouldn't bet against him coming back and making some sort of impact this year.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Ariel Miranda