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Mariners shouldn't reverse course yet

New-look club needs time to meld despite rocky April
MLB.com @jonmorosi

DETROIT -- Jarrod Dyson scored the championship-clinching run for the Royals in the 2015 World Series. He knows a playoff team when he sees it.

Can the Mariners be one?

View Full Game Coverage

DETROIT -- Jarrod Dyson scored the championship-clinching run for the Royals in the 2015 World Series. He knows a playoff team when he sees it.

Can the Mariners be one?

View Full Game Coverage

"Absolutely," Dyson asserted Tuesday afternoon in Seattle's clubhouse. "We've got everything you want in here. We've got speed. We've got power. We've got it all. We can play good defense. You just have to put it together."

The Mariners have not put it together yet. In fact, they are further away from doing so after Tuesday's 19-9 loss to the Tigers -- for reasons more alarming than the lopsided score.

Ace Felix Hernandez experienced shoulder tightness and "dead arm" during his abbreviated two-inning start, according to manager Scott Servais. Hernandez, who left Comerica Park without speaking with reporters, will be examined by team physicians and will undergo an MRI in Seattle.

Video: SEA@DET: Servais on key players' nagging injuries

"I didn't see anything until the last [second] inning," Robinson Cano said in a quiet clubhouse. "Then I saw him moving his arm [between pitches], and I was like, 'Ooh, that looks weird.' I hope it's nothing bad. If he gets an MRI, I hope it comes back negative, just like a little inflammation -- something not really bad."

Meanwhile, right fielder Mitch Haniger -- the team's most productive player so far this season -- left in the third inning with a strained right oblique that had been bothering him in recent days. He, too, is expected to meet with the Mariners' medical staff.

The 10-day disabled list a possibility.

"Probably our most consistent, hottest hitter," Servais said. "Feel bad for him, but who said this was going to be easy? Certainly makes things a little tougher when you start losing key players."

Video: SEA@DET: Haniger exits with oblique injury

Tuesday was supposed to mark the end of Seattle's early-season attrition, as shortstop Jean Segura returned from the DL with a 3-for-6 night. Instead, the inconsistent Mariners (8-13) burrowed deeper into the bottom of the American League West as their health worries multiplied.

What, then, can general manager Jerry Dipoto do to stop this rudderless course through the 2017 season?

Nothing. Not now, at least.

Dipoto is unlikely to make a significant acquisition in the near term. He's already made 40 trades since taking over in the fall of 2015 -- the most of any general manager in that span, according to information compiled by MLB Network Research.

Dipoto could become active closer to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, particularly if Hernandez or Drew Smyly, who is on the disabled list with a left elbow flexor strain, is unavailable into the second half. Seattle's farm system is strong enough to pursue a rental starter from potential sellers like the Blue Jays (Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano) or White Sox (Derek Holland, Miguel Gonzalez). And if the Mariners are in contention, they're likely to show interest in a late-inning reliever like Pirates left-hander Tony Watson.

But this is a time for Dipoto and Servais to let the roster settle, despite the discouraging near-term results. It would be foolish to suggest that Seattle should reverse course and rebuild, with Cano (through 2021), Kyle Seager (through '21) and Nelson Cruz (through '18) all under contract beyond this year. The Mariners are built to win now, which is why they added Dyson's postseason pedigree in a January trade.

Video: SEA@DET: Cruz knocks Valencia in with a single

Only two players in Tuesday's starting lineup -- Cano and Cruz -- were part of Seattle's everyday nine at this time last year. Offseason acquisitions Haniger and Taylor Motter became mainstays more quickly than many outside observers expected. With that much changeover, the Mariners needed a cohesive Spring Training and start to the regular season. They didn't have one, because of the World Baseball Classic and early-season injuries to Segura and Smyly.

As evidence of the team's disjointed -- perhaps unlucky -- start, consider that Seattle entered Tuesday with the worst record among all MLB teams with positive run differentials.

"We're better than the way we've played this year," Dipoto said in an interview with MLB.com before Tuesday's game. "All the indicators suggest we should be better. Now all we have to do is play better."

Video: SEA@DET: Segura, Valencia hit back-to-back homers

After all, the roster includes some of the current generation's greatest players: Cano, a World Series champion with the Yankees, is on his way to the Hall of Fame; Cruz has played in the World Series twice and owns a career 1.016 OPS in the postseason; and Hernandez, with a perfect game and an AL Cy Young Award on his resume, leads the Majors in strikeouts since 2005, the year of his debut.

But they're playing for a franchise that has not posted consecutive winning seasons since '03. The Mariners' postseason drought -- dating back to 2001 -- is the longest in the Majors.

Dyson was in Kansas City three years ago, when the Royals reached the postseason for the first time in nearly three decades. He said Tuesday that the 2014 season -- in which the Royals were under .500 in late July -- reminded him of the '17 Mariners.

"Think about what happened that year," Dyson said. "We weren't rolling. I think we won 10 or 11 in a row that put us back [in contention]. That was just in a couple series. We played bad up until that point.

"We got in by a Wild Card. We were down in that [Wild Card] Game, ended up coming back. Nobody thought we were going to come back in that game. But we came back and won. We felt untouchable after that."

Dyson's current team could only dream of that feeling, on a night when concern over Hernandez and Haniger made a 10-run loss appear stunningly insignificant.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.

Seattle Mariners