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Inbox: What's needed for Mariners to stay hot?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers Seattle fans' questions
June 5, 2017

This year's Mariners have seemed very streaky, as evidenced by their recent hot stretch. What do they need to do to stay on a steady uptick in order to get back in the playoff race over the final four months? -- Scott A., Snohomish, Wash.Starting pitching is usually the biggest

This year's Mariners have seemed very streaky, as evidenced by their recent hot stretch. What do they need to do to stay on a steady uptick in order to get back in the playoff race over the final four months?
-- Scott A., Snohomish, Wash.

Starting pitching is usually the biggest key to consistency, and the Mariners have obviously had issues there this year, in large part because of injuries. When you're talking about streaks, Seattle went 1-7 and was outscored 50-9 in eight games prior to its current turnaround, when the Mariners have gone 7-1 and outscored their opponents, 57-22.
Seattle's starting pitchers had an 8.47 ERA during the eight-game skid, compared to a 3.17 ERA in the past eight. It's not all on the pitching, of course. The Mariners' offense hit .184 with nine extra-base hits and three homers in the first eight games, versus .354 with 30 extra-base hits and 10 homers in the past eight. But it's hard to be competitive when you're down four or five runs after the first inning or two every game.
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Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio have helped stabilize the injury-plagued rotation, Ariel Miranda has really stepped up, and now James Paxton is back and throwing well. If they get quality pitching, I think the Mariners' offense is plenty good enough to make this team competitive.

Any injury update on Shawn O'Malley?
-- Zach W., Auburn, Wash.

With shortstop Jean Segura expected to miss likely the next month with a high right ankle sprain and Mike Freeman having been claimed off waivers by the Dodgers, O'Malley certainly would be a valuable player to have back soon. But the 29-year-old utility man remains in Arizona working back from right shoulder surgery that he had in May after initially being sidelined by an appendectomy in Spring Training.
O'Malley said he's getting stronger and doing well in the rehab process, but he's still taking things day by day and has no timetable yet on when he might get back into game action.
The Mariners have been hit by the injury bug, big-time. If things don't work out this season, do you sense the organization would tear down and rebuild?
-- Michael J., Raleigh, N.C.

Given the current roster has only eight players who were on the Major League roster inherited by Jerry Dipoto when he took over 20 months ago, it's hard to say they haven't already been rebuilding. The question would be if they change the veteran core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and Hisashi Iwakuma. Those are the high-priced guys, of course, and those contracts don't get easily traded.
Iwakuma's deal will expire after this year unless he pitches another 94 innings during the remainder of the season, which would guarantee his $15 million option for 2018. Cruz has one year remaining at $14 million, Hernandez two years at $53 million, Seager four years at $75.5 million and Cano six years at $144 million. Cruz would be the most tradeable of that group because of his salary, but I'm not sure why they'd deal a guy who remains that productive. Hernandez can't be traded unless he approves the deal because of his 10/5 veteran status.
My expectation is the Mariners will continue building around that core unless someone bowls them over with an offer for one of their stars and is willing to take on the significant salary.

Since we are supposedly in "win-now" mode, would you expect the Mariners to trade a guy like Tyler O'Neill for pitching?
-- Riley S., Monroe, Wash.

I think the Mariners are waiting for the return of their injured starters -- Hernandez, Iwakuma and Drew Smyly -- rather than looking to trade, since other teams are reluctant to deal quality arms at this point of the season and they'd have to significantly overpay to get any sort of Major League-ready starter. Seattle also has Andrew Moore knocking at the door with Triple-A Tacoma, so they still have an internal option once he's deemed ready.
Barring further injuries, do you see any way Miranda is fifth over Yovani Gallardo when the injured pitchers return?
-- James M., Olympia, Wash.

Given that much can -- and likely will -- happen before the Mariners get all their injured starters back, it's pointless to predict now how they'd handle that situation. As well as Miranda has thrown, it's hard to imagine he won't remain in the rotation as long as he stays healthy himself.
I was looking at the June MLB Draft order and noticed the Mariners don't have a competitive-balance selection in either Round 1 or 2. Can you explain how this works?
-- David P., Brush Prairie, Wash.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 10 lowest-revenue clubs and clubs from the 10 smallest markets are eligible to receive a competitive-balance pick after either the first or second round. The Mariners are not one of the 14 teams that fall into one or both of those categories, so they won't receive a competitive-balance pick through the remainder of the CBA in 2021.
Teams that do get an extra pick are the Rays, Reds, A's, Brewers, Twins, Marlins, D-backs, Padres, Rockies, Indians, Pirates, Royals, Orioles and Cardinals. Those competitive-balance picks can be traded, however. As it stands, Seattle has the 17th pick in the first round and the 55th pick in the second round in this year's Draft, which starts next Monday.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [