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March 25, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Let’s take a crack at forecasting the Mariners’ Opening Day lineup

These types of things always give me a headache because inevitably, the Mariners do something unexpected, or change their mind, as is entirely their right. But I do realize many of you out there have been following the team and this blog for the past seven weeks of spring training and I figure I owe it to you to take an educated guess as to the Opening Day roster this team will have.

So, without further delay, here I go.

ROTATION

RHP Felix Hernandez

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

LHP Joe Saunders

RHP Blake Beavan

RHP Brandon Maurer

I know that I wrote a week or so ago that Brandon Maurer was still a rotation longshot. But that was before Jon Garland opted out of his deal when the Mariners would not sign him. I didn’t know the Mariners had concerns over Garland’s long-term durability and it wound up being a close organizational call. At the time, though, I also felt the final two rotation spots would go to Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez — not knowing that Ramirez would have a tough time recovering from a March 16 game against the Rockies. The Mariners didn’t just put him in the bullpen on March 21 because they felt like it. Had his arm recovered perfectly well from the prior six innings against the Rockies, he’d have started five days later.

So, that was the start of it, followed by the Cubs lighting him up in his two-inning bullpen stint, followed by another scratched start after that and now, another bullpen outing. So, that changes things. If it’s a choice between Maurer and Jeremy Bonderman, I give Maurer the shot. He’s earned it and he’s the better option. I wrote last week that Bonderman looks like he could use some more AAA seasoning as he works back from having not pitched in the majors since 2010.

I meant that and still do. The Mariners should hold on to that roster spot for now.

BULLPEN

RHP Tom Wilhelmsen

LHP Oliver Perez

RHP Carter Capps

RHP Stephen Pryor

RHP Kameron Loe

LHP Charlie Furbush

LHP Lucas Luetge

If it came down to putting Erasmo Ramirez in the bullpen to start the year, then Lucas Luetge is the most expendable because he’s a situational guy and Oliver Perez duplicates that skillset with the ability to go more than a batter or two.

But manager Eric Wedge says his priority is to build Ramirez’s arm up and have him pitch healthy. That’s tough to do as a bullpen guy. He likely starts in Class AAA. This isn’t a case where Ramirez is a free agent here on a one-year deal from Japan — like Hisashi Iwakuma last year — and it makes sense to keep him close to the team and try to gain arm strength in bullpen sessions. Ramirez is young, cheap and under club control for years to come. Build his arm the proper way in AAA. I see Danny Farquhar opening the season as the closer for AAA Tacoma.

POSITION PLAYERS

C Jesus Montero

1B Justin Smoak

2B Dustin Ackley

SS Brendan Ryan

3B Kyle Seager

LF Michael Morse

CF Franklin Gutierrez

RF Michael Saunders

DH Kendrys Morales

When the Safeco Field fences came in, I had a feeling Michael Saunders was about to become a guy who played right field a whole lot more than folks expected. The need to have an all-star defender in left at Safeco isn’t what it used to be and we should be seeing quite a bit of Michael Morse and Jason Bay out there. Saunders has the power teams usually hope to stack in right field — he just plays the position better than most big bat types.

Justin Smoak was handed the first base job when camp opened and has not given anybody a reason to doubt themselves. If he stumbles, though, Kendrys Morales is an excellent defender — maybe even better than Smoak when fully healthy.

BENCH

C Kelly Shoppach

INF Robert Andino

OF Raul Ibanez

OF Jason Bay

Robert Andino is the key here as his ability to play multiple positions — for several days on end if needed — has the team going with two extra outfielders instead of one. That clears a path for Bay to join the squad. Bay has outperformed Casper Wells this spring and despite reputed defensive shortcomings, that really hasn’t come into play here.

Bay has become a big clubhouse presence — as has Raul Ibanez — and both have backed that up with their on-field performance. The addition of Endy Chavez in AAA gives the team center field depth. The Mariners would prefer for Wells to have added that depth, but he’s out of options an there’s no way to get him to AAA without exposing him to a waiver claim.

Keeping Wells in the majors at this point when he offers little else but AAA-caliber outfield depth seems a waste when there’s a guy around who has looked demonstrably better. Wells might find his game on another team someday, but the Mariners want to start winning again in 2013 and the time for a 28-year-old to find his talent level here appears to have come and gone. Wrong team, wrong time.

0 Comments | More in spring training | Topics: brandon maurer; jason bay; casper wells; roster

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