Inbox: How to keep arms fresh all season?
Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from Mariners fans
Here's the latest in our Inbox series. You can click here to submit a question of your own.
We all know the Mariners' pitching dominated last year but tailed off at the end of the season. How will manager Lloyd McClendon keep his arms fresh for the stretch run and playoff push in 2015?
-- Travis P., Spokane, Wash.
That question is exactly why the Mariners -- and every team -- always say you can never have enough pitching. Seattle was impacted last year by early injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, then saw Chris Young and Roenis Elias wear down in the final month as their innings mounted. That is why general manager Jack Zduriencik felt the need to trade for J.A. Happ, even though that gives Seattle six or seven starters fighting for five spots, even with Young not returning.
As it stands, Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton and Happ appear to be the top four, with Walker and Elias fighting for the fifth spot and Erasmo Ramirez seemingly on the outside. But lots of things happen once pitchers start throwing, as we learn every spring.
McClendon drew some heat last year for taking Hernandez out early of some close games, but Hernandez stayed strong through September for the first time in several years. A good bullpen can help take the load off all the starters, which is one of Seattle's strengths. Combined with a year's growth and experience for their youngsters, hopefully it adds up to the right mix for the full year.
What will it take for Robinson Cano to make it into the Hall of Fame as a Seattle Mariner?
-- Craig L., Kirkland, Wash.
Well, Cano played nine years and made five All-Star teams with the Yankees. He's already had one year and one All-Star appearance with Seattle and still has nine years to go on his contract, so there's plenty of time to rack up stats and honors in a Mariners uniform. But here's something to remember: Players don't have to go into the Hall of Fame representing one team.
Since 2001, the rules have been changed to allow the Hall -- instead of the player -- to select what cap a player will wear, with input from the player. And, in some instances, they've chosen hats with no team logo at all. Greg Maddux and Tony La Russa both were inducted last year with no logo on their hat because their careers were equally split between more than one club. And that may well be what happens if Cano reaches that point.
When do the Mariners arrive at Spring Training?
-- Marcus C., Maple Valley, Wash.
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 20, with workouts beginning Feb. 21. Position players must report by Feb. 24, with the first full-squad workout Feb. 25. Cactus League games begin March 4. Those are the official dates, but many players arrive earlier and begin working out on their own at the club's facility in Peoria, Ariz., and a few live in the area and spend much of the winter there working out.
What is the Mariners' plan for Danny Hultzen? Do they plan on keeping him or trying to trade him in a package deal for another right-handed bat?
-- Brandon H., Tacoma, Wash.
Hultzen is expected to be ready to pitch at the start of Spring Training, though he'll be carefully monitored after missing much of the last two seasons with shoulder problems. There's zero expectation of him being ready to start the season with the big league club, but if all goes well, he'll begin the year in the Minors and then see how things progress. There's no point in trading him now when his value is low due to the injuries. The Mariners will be eager to see how he does this year and he should be one of the interesting stories to watch in camp.
While the Mariners have addressed a lot of their needs this offseason, there doesn't seem to be a lot of backup first-base options besides Jesus Montero. Any chance the Mariners are interested in signing Mike Carp or J.P. Arencibia?
-- Inigo O., Manila, Philippines
There isn't an experienced option behind Logan Morrison at this point. Assuming Willie Bloomquist is healthy and begins the season as the utility man, he'd likely be the backup first baseman. But the Mariners do want to give Montero a chance to show what he can do after a long winter of workouts in Arizona, and Ji-Man Choi will get a look in camp as well. And it wouldn't surprise me if another veteran is added on a non-roster invite for more depth in the coming weeks.
With Ichiro Suzuki available, why isn't he being talked about more? The Mariners need a right fielder, and it would just be right if he finished his career in Seattle.
-- Rick M., Naches, Wash.
I've addressed Ichiro's situation before, but this keeps getting asked, so I'll give it another whirl. Ichiro is 41 and clearly at the end of a great career. People in baseball will tell you he isn't the same defender and is losing the bat and footspeed that allowed him to be so good for so long, which is why the Yankees let him go this winter. None of that is surprising or insulting, given nobody yet has beaten Father Time. The man has literally had two outstanding careers -- one in Japan and one in MLB -- and will wind up in the Hall of Fame.
The Mariners tried the reunion route with Ken Griffey Jr. and that didn't end well. This is a team now looking ahead, not backward. They've traded for Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano to play right field and appear set in the outfield. Ichiro is still hopeful of getting 156 more hits to reach 3,000 for his MLB career and is reportedly drawing some interest from the Orioles. I know some fans think he should get that shot in Seattle, but personally I'd rather remember him at his All-Star-level best and am glad the Mariners are more interested in fielding the best team to chase a playoff berth in 2015.