Any previous Mariner team would have been buried had it started the season with as many injuries as this year's Seattle club. But at week's end the 1993 Mariners were 21-23 and only 4½ games out of first place in the American League West. "Losing is not an option with Lou [Piniella]," first baseman-designated hitter Pete O'Brien says of Seattle's new manager. "He doesn't put up with it."
Until last Sunday night the Mariners had been without their winningest pitcher of last season, lefthander Dave Fleming, who was 17-10 in 1992 but who injured his elbow in camp this spring. (He gave up six runs on eight hits in 4⅓ innings on Sunday, but Seattle rallied to beat the Royals 10-7.) Third baseman Edgar Martinez, the reigning American League batting champ, tore his right hamstring three days before the start of the season and had only 12 at bats through Sunday. Righthander Chris Bosio, a 16-game winner with the Brewers last season, was 2-1 in five starts, including a no-hitter, before breaking his collarbone on April 27. He isn't due back until early June.
"I'm amazed by the Mariners. They might be the best club in the division," says Angel manager Buck Rodgers. "When they get everybody back, they might zoom past everyone."
A year ago the Mariners finished 64-98 and, by most accounts, quit playing hard for manager Bill Plummer during the second half of the season. "If anyone on this team thinks he can pack it in and still be here a month from now, he's got another think coming," says closer Norm Charlton, who played for the Reds when Piniella was their manager from 1990 to '92.
The dynamic Piniella has stuck to his spring training promise to play the players who are playing best—with no exceptions. Much-ballyhooed rookie Bret Boone, thought by many to be a lock to start at second base, was shipped back to the minors before Seattle broke camp, and the job was given to 31-year-old Rich Amaral, a 10-year minor leaguer and the oldest rookie in the majors. "I should be proud of that; it shows I endured," says Amaral. "But maybe I should be embarrassed by it." After the weekend there was nothing embarrassing about his .327 average, which included a five-hit game on May 17.
Last year the dreadful Seattle pitching staff gave up 10 grand slams—a major league record. This year Erik Hanson (5-1 with a 1.60 ERA) and ace Randy Johnson (6-3, 2.91, with a major league-high 85 strikeouts) have carried the patched-up rotation. After the 1990 season Hanson, now 28, was considered among the best pitchers in the league. But during the last two seasons he struggled with arm injuries and went 16-25, including a league-high 17 losses last year. Now he's healthy, and his stuff is back.
If the Mariners continue to hold together until Bosio, Fleming and Martinez return to form, they can make a run at the division-leading White Sox.
ON THE DOWNSWING
Between July 1, 1992, and last Sunday, Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken hit .218 with seven home runs in 505 at bats, and his slump is of growing concern in Baltimore. After a .323, 34-homer MVP season in '91, Ripken saw his average drop to .251 last year—the third season in the last four that he had hit less than .258. And at week's end he was hitting .209 for '93.