Spring Postcard: Seattle's pitching could be stellar, but the offense ...
King Felix reported in excellent shape, trimmed down 15 pounds to 212 pounds
Ken Griffey Jr. is back -- but will he help or hurt the M's?
First base prospect Mike Carp has been the surprise of the spring
1) The Mariners could have one of the best rotations in the American League. (Pause to let laughter die down.)
2) The Mariners will have one of the worst offenses in the American League.
He's not alone. Seattle was second to last in runs scored, slugging, and OBP -- and on paper they are worse this year, with Raul Ibanez now in Philly. The Mariners front office, though, doesn't think the team needs to score 750 runs to post a winning season.
"If we can perform up to our capability defensively, it opens up some possibilities," says special assistant Tony Blengino. "If we keep our pitchers healthy, minimize runs as much as we can, then we can have an average or less-than-average offensive club and still be right there in the mix. If pitching and defense shine, which we're counting on, we can do some things. That's a big if. We like what we see."
3) The Kid is back -- but will he help or hurt the M's?
But even if Griffey rediscovers his stroke in Seattle, he will be a huge liability in the field. As Mitchel Lichtman, who developed the play-by-play defensive evaluation system UZR (Ultimate Zone Ratings), points out, "Scouts watch him and say he can still play, but the numbers say he's actually been atrocious for six, seven years now."
Prospect creating a buzz
At first, it was for the wrong reasons: The morning first base prospect Mike Carp was due to arrive at camp, he was driving 55 mph on the Route 91 freeway in Anaheim and in a downpour, Carp's Mustang Cobra spun twice around, crashed into the median, then even went against oncoming traffic for a bit. Carp missed the first day of workouts, but since then he's been the surprise of the spring.
The former Mets prospect came to Seattle in the 12-player trade in December that sent Putz to New York. Seattle officials saw Carp as their first baseman in 2010 at the earliest -- but a strong spring has made a 2009 arrival a very real possibility. Seattle is desperate for left-handed power in their lineup, and the 6-foot-2', 205-pound 22-year-old gives them some pop.
Position battle/Fantasy fodder
No one seems to want the closer's job. Miguel Batista, Roy Corcoran and Mark Lowe have all been unimpressive in making their cases to replace Putz. And Wakamatsu has even thrown Randy Messenger and David Aardsma into the mix. Even if Wakamatsu names a closer in the next few weeks -- the guess here is that Batista will be tapped -- don't waste a pick on a Mariners closer. At this rate, Gary Locke could be closing games in June.
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