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Inbox: Who's up first in Mariners' lineup?

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

Who is most likely to have the leadoff spot, Dee Gordon or Jean Segura?
-- Elliot C., Seattle

Manager Scott Servais has already said his initial plan heading into Spring Training will be to have Gordon hit first and Segura second. With his elite speed, Gordon is a classic leadoff batter and has hit first almost his entire six-year career (605 of his 651 starts with the Dodgers and Marlins). Segura has led off in 335 of his 739 career starts, and hit in the No. 2 spot in 160 games.

Who is most likely to have the leadoff spot, Dee Gordon or Jean Segura?
-- Elliot C., Seattle

Manager Scott Servais has already said his initial plan heading into Spring Training will be to have Gordon hit first and Segura second. With his elite speed, Gordon is a classic leadoff batter and has hit first almost his entire six-year career (605 of his 651 starts with the Dodgers and Marlins). Segura has led off in 335 of his 739 career starts, and hit in the No. 2 spot in 160 games.

Gordon led the National League in stolen bases three of the last four years, and he can impact a game with his speed, so it's natural to hit him in front of Segura. Additionally, that sets Seattle up to alternate Gordon (left), Segura (right), Robinson Cano (left), Nelson Cruz (right), Kyle Seager (left) and Ryon Healy (right) atop the lineup.

What's the latest on Shawn O'Malley? Is he still in the Mariners' organization?
-- Mark B., Whangarie, New Zealand

Nope, the popular utility player from Kennewick, Wash., elected to become a Minor League free agent this winter and recently signed a Minor League deal with the Rockies. O'Malley enjoyed playing for his home-state Mariners, but missed almost all of last season following elbow surgery, and the Mariners are flush with utility players with Taylor Motter and newly acquired veteran Andrew Romine, plus veteran Gordon Beckham agreeing to return on a Minor League deal earlier this month.

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Nick Vincent has been so steady and effective as a setup man, until September. His ERA in September has been over 11.00 for both his seasons with Seattle. What can be done with this pattern, as we hope to have September matter one of these years.
-- Keith P., Tacoma, Wash.

You're correct that Vincent had a rough finish last year. He had a 1.87 ERA in 55 appearances through Sept. 3, then gave up 11 runs in seven innings over his last nine games to elevate his final ERA to 3.20. But the previous year he posted a 2.93 ERA over his last 15 appearances and finished well after some rocky times in midseason before and after spending time on the disabled list with a strained back.

Video: NYM@SEA: Vincent strikes out Reyes

The problem seems pretty clear. Vincent's 69 appearances were the most of any Mariners reliever last year, and it looked like he wore down at the end. Even the previous season, he had 60 appearances despite spending nearly six weeks on the DL. Servais avoided multiple-inning outings for Vincent this past season, which seemed to help. But Vincent's biggest boost figures to come from the increased depth general manager Jerry Dipoto has added to the bullpen this winter. If he's not leaned on quite as often, Vincent should have a better chance of staying strong through September and beyond.

With Mike Ford's Rule 5 Draft acquisition and need to stay on the roster, is Cruz -- who is in the last year of his contract -- a candidate to be traded for a starting pitcher?
-- Tim T., Bellevue, Wash.

I suppose it's wise to never say never regarding trades and Dipoto, but I really don't see the Mariners dealing Cruz at this point. He was their best hitter last year, one of baseball's premier sluggers who led the American League in RBIs in 2017, and he has hit more homers than any player in the Majors over the past four years. Not to mention a much-respected team leader.

Video: Cruz earns DH Award for his tremendous power in '17

Ford is an interesting prospect who was acquired to provide depth and options at first base or designated hitter if needed, but he's never even been in the Majors and is far from a sure thing. Maybe if the team isn't in contention at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, you'd consider moving Cruz, but not going into a season in which the Mariners have every hope of contending for a postseason bid and are counting on him to anchor the offense.

Could you please explain the Rule 5 Draft?
-- John B., Langley, B.C.

Simply put, it's a system set up so good players don't get stuck in one team's Minor League system forever. Any player not on a team's 40-man roster who has been in the Minors for four years if they were drafted out of college, or five years if they signed or were drafted out of high school, are eligible to be selected by another team in the Rule 5 Draft each December.

The trick is, these players then must remain on their new team's 25-man Major League roster for the entire season and be active (not on the DL) at least 90 days or they have to to be offered back to their original team. So unless a player is good enough to stick on the big league club and help in some fashion for his first full year, it's tough to add players this way. But there have been some good ones over the years, including Johan Santana, who went on to win two Cy Young Awards after being drafted by the Marlins from the Astros in 1999 and then traded to the Twins.

Dipoto has stated he's basically done adding to the 25-man roster. Is he set on Mike Marjama as the backup catcher, or do you think he'll pursue a Carlos Ruiz-type veteran?
-- Johnny R., Lewiston, Idaho

The plan at this point is to have Marjama compete with David Freitas -- who was claimed off waivers from the Braves -- and returnee Tuffy Gosewisch for the backup job to Mike Zunino. All three of those catchers have a little MLB experience. The Mariners also picked up two more catchers -- Joseph Odom from the Braves and Tyler Baker from the D-backs -- in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft to add further depth.

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

 

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