PEORIA, Ariz. -- After seven weeks of morning meetings, sunny afternoons and a record number of night games in Cactus League play, the Mariners break camp Tuesday and head back to Seattle to open a season at Safeco Field for just the second time in the past 10 years.The regular-season
PEORIA, Ariz. -- After seven weeks of morning meetings, sunny afternoons and a record number of night games in Cactus League play, the Mariners break camp Tuesday and head back to Seattle to open a season at Safeco Field for just the second time in the past 10 years.
The regular-season games begin Thursday, with a 7:10 p.m. PT first pitch for the Mariners as Felix Hernandez becomes just the seventh hurler in Major League history to start 10 straight Opening Days. He'll be tested by a Cleveland club that had the best record in the American League last year at 102-60 and will have AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber on the mound.
Seattle was hit with a number of injuries in camp, but most of the key players are back and eager to get underway with a lineup that features elite speed at the top and significant power potential from the third through eighth spots.
Projected Opening Day lineup
- Dee Gordon, CF
- Jean Segura, SS
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Nelson Cruz, DH
- Kyle Seager, 3B
- Ryon Healy, 1B
- Mitch Haniger, RF
- Mike Zunino, C
- Guillermo Heredia, LF
Felix Hernandez, RHP
• Gordon was acquired from the Marlins to fill the leadoff spot and center-field void. His speed should provide a nice spark atop the lineup, having led the Majors in stolen bases three of the past four years, and he's handled the outfield transition seamlessly this spring.
• Young right-hander Edwin Diaz will be the closer again, and the hard-throwing 24-year-old has looked sharp this spring, having added upper-body strength to his slender frame as he looks to build on last year's 34-save season.
• The Mariners aren't planning to platoon as much this year, but Heredia will split time with Ichiro Suzuki in left field, and it will be interesting to see how much rookie Daniel Vogelbach is used at first base in tandem with Healy after having an impressive camp.
• Left fielder Ben Gamel will miss at least the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from a strained right oblique, though he's ahead of schedule on his return and has just begun taking batting practice.
• Healy has fully recovered from surgery to remove a bone spur on his right hand and is ready to go at first base to open the season.
• Ichiro's status is up in the air as the 44-year-old played just four Cactus League games due to his late signing and then a strained right calf muscle.
• Erasmo Ramirez, projected as the No. 4 starter coming in, has just begun throwing off the mound again after straining his right lat muscle at the start of camp. He could return sometime in late April.
• Cano and Cruz both missed seven to 10 days in midcamp with leg issues and Segura time with a sprained right thumb, but they all returned in the past week. The question now is if they've regained their timing at the plate, something Haniger has still been struggling with after getting a late start due to a sore right hand of his own.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.