General manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon held a season wrap-up press conference today at Safeco Field.
Unlike Sunday, where they celebrated the fact that they had a chance to make the postseason on the final day of the regular season, the feeling was a little different on Tuesday with the first pitch of the AL wild card game just hours away.
“You put your heart and soul into it and when it comes to an end, particularly they way it ended for us, it’s a little tough,” McClendon said. “We were so close. To think one game here or one game there, it could make a world of difference.”
The Mariners finished with an 87-75 record, missing the playoffs by one win.
Admittedly, Zduriencik started thinking about to missed opportunities from games to individual plays.
“We might be playing today,” he said.
And that’s why McClendon took pride in a season that saw the Mariners improve by 16 wins, but he won’t be preaching any overall or moral victory.
“I think ultimately as a manager, it’s your job to determine what success and failure is for your team,” he said. “In a lot of ways, we did a lot of great things. In some ways, we didn’t do a lot of great things. All in all, it was a very successful season. But am I satisfied with where we are? No. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.
There was a lot to like about the year. The Mariners’ pitching had a record setting season, posting a team ERA of 3.17, which was the lowest in team history.
But that pitching – particularly the starting rotation – faltered down the stretch with starting rotation battling injury and fatigue. In the final week of the season, the Mariners were forced to make a bullpen start because Roenis Elias was injured and Chris Young was out of gas.
It wasn’t ideal.
“You can just never have enough starting pitching,” Zduriencik said. “We saw it at the end.”
The addition of Robinson Cano (.314 batting average 14 homers, 82 RBI) and the continued growth of Kyle Seager (. were the strong points of an anemic offense that averaged just 3.91 runs per game with a .244 batting average – second worst in the AL and a .676 OPS – the worst in the league.
“From an offensive standpoint, we have to be better,” McClendon said.
Cano and Seager are consistent stalwarts. Logan Morrison and Dustin Ackley seemed to have taken steps as hitters.
Morrison hit .323 with six homers, 20 RBI and an .887 OPS in the final two months of the season. Ackley was in the midst of the second straight season featuring a second half surge until ankle injuries slowed his production. In the final three months of the season, Ackley hit .274 with 10 homers, 38 RBI and a .776 OPS.
“We have some hitters that took some steps this year,” McClendon said. “But we need them to take more.”
It was a season of improvement in most areas. But it’s not the posteason and that’s not good enough for McClendon.
“That’s one thing I want to impress upon our fans,” he said. “We are not satisfied with the year we had.”
Jack Zduriencik said that payroll will increase for next season. He wouldn’t give any specific totals.
“The payroll is going to rise,” he said. “What the exact number is, I don’t know yet because we haven’t had that meeting. I’m sure within the next few weeks, that will take place, but I’m encouraged that our payroll will increase.”
Danny Hultzen threw 25 pitches in an instructional game in Arizona on Tuesday morning in front of several Mariners’ executives, including special assistant to the GM Roger Hansen, director of pro scouting Tom Allison and director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara.
“They were very happy with what they saw,” Zduriencik said. “They said it was very impressive. He’s now finished for the fall. He showed an average fastball, really good curveball and changeup. Delivery was sound.”
After a long season of rehabbing the Mariners decided to shut Hultzen down. They had considered pitching him in the Arizona Fall League, but they chose to let him rest. Hultzen will report to spring training as a full go. But it’s unlikely he will compete for the opening day roster. He’s just missed too much time and he needs to build up strength.
Jesus Montero has been working out at the Mariners’ spring training facility in Arizona since being suspended for an altercation with a scout during a minor league game. He will spend the offseason in Peoria, instead of his native Venezuela.
“He going through a program that should help in many areas on and off the field,” Zduriencik said. “He will be at the complex every day. He’s working out twice a day now. He’ll be under our supervision most of the winter.”
Dustin Ackley will visit a foot specialist in North Carolina. He said doesn’t think that he’ll need surgery.
D.J. Peterson, the team’s top hitting prospect, will receive an invite to major league spring training with a chance to compete for the big league roster.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Zduriencik said. “You don’t shut the door on it, let him come in and compete and see what happens.”
Taijuan Walker will throw in the Arizona Fall League and try to reach a total of 30 innings to build his overall innings count. James Paxton was also scheduled to throw in the fall, but preferred not to pitch.
“We talked to him about winter ball and he was a little uncomfortable with that,” Zduriencik said of Paxton. “We didn’t want to force the issue. He’s going to stay here this winter, in Seattle.”
Franklin Gutierrez has contacted the Mariners about possible returning next season. He’s been in Miami working out. But Zduriencik said the only way he’d come back would be as a non-roster invite to spring training.