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Roster Report

The Sports Xchange
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PROJECTED ROTATION:

1. RHP Felix Hernandez

2. LHP Jason Vargas

3. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

4. RHP Kevin Millwood

5. RHP Blake Beavan

Although the Mariners went out of their way to get veteran help for the rotation in Iwakuma and Millwood, they have two pitchers from last year's rotation in Beavan and LHP Charlie Furbush, both of whom are looking to push up the depth chart.

More than that, the club is organizationally deep in starters, with LHP Danny Hultzen, LHP James Paxton and RHP Taijuan Walker. Although Walker is probably too young to make the jump to the big leagues, either Hultzen or Paxton could make the jump into the rotation.

At the top end, Hernandez and Vargas are the undisputed 1-2 punch. In fact, with the Mariners starting the season in Japan against Oakland, then coming home for a week before resuming the final 160 games, Hernandez and Vargas could start the Mariners' first four games before anyone else gets a chance.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:

RHP Brandon League (closer)

RHP Shawn Kelley

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo

LHP George Sherrill

RHP Shawn Camp

RHP Tom Wilhelmsen

RHP Chance Ruffin

General manager Jack Zduriencik threw the Mariners' bullpen a curve less than a week before the start of spring training with the signings of two veteran free agent relievers -- right-hander Shawn Camp and lefty Hong-Chih Kuo. They'd already added RHP Aaron Heilman and Sherrill.

All of a sudden, the club has an option other than going with a mostly young bullpen. It's possible that League Kelley, Kuo, Sherrill and Camp will all advance out of spring training, leaving just two more spots to be filled. If Heilman makes it, there might only be room for one of the younger generation on the roster.

Kids like Wilhelmsen, Ruffin, RHP Steve Delabar, LHP Cesar Jimenez, and RHP Forrest Snow will have to step up big this spring or risk starting the season at Class AAA Tacoma.

Sherrill is looked on as a one-inning guy while Kuo's likely destined to be the situational lefty. Camp and Kelley could wind up as the eighth-inning right-hander, but Wilhelmsen gave evidence last year that he could jump ahead of them both.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

1. 3B Chone Figgins

2. 2B Dustin Ackley

3. RF Ichiro Suzuki

4. 1B Justin Smoak

5. LF Mike Carp

6. DH Jesus Montero

7. C Miguel Olivo

8. CF Franklin Gutierrez

9. SS Brendan Ryan

There is no guarantee that manager Eric Wedge will throw a decade of tradition to the wind and move Ichiro from first to third in the lineup, but he brought it up as one way of perhaps generating more offense, and both he and Ichiro seem serious about such a move.

If so, then Figgins, who has had two disappointing seasons with Seattle, gets to move back to the leadoff spot, which was his best slot when he was an All-Star with the Angels. Either way it works, Wedge would like to get to a regular lineup instead of the improvising he had to do last season.

The Mariners are looking for more power; hence the trade for Yankees' prize minor leaguer Montero, who will also get perhaps 40 games behind the plate when he's not the DH. Smoak, who came to camp leaner and stronger than last year, and Carp, who came of age in 2011, could make the Mariners less of a power vacuum this season in the middle of the lineup.

Ichiro, Figgins, Gutierrez, Ryan and Olivo all have room for upside improvements statistically. Olivo may be helped by the addition of Montero, which means the veteran can get more time off from behind the plate at perhaps DH when not catching.

If there isn't improvement in that group, there is some young talent waiting in the wings in 3B Alex Liddi, INF Kyle Seager, SS/3B Munenori Kawasaki, OF Casper Wells, OF Trayvon Robinson, OF Carlos Peguero and OF Michael Saunders.

TOP ROOKIES: C/DH Jesus Montero has just one month of big league experience last year with the Yankees (18 games, four homers, 12 RBI) and is all but guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup. LHP Danny Hultzen didn't pitch in the minors last year, but the 2011 top draft pick out of Virginia (No. 2 overall) made six starts in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA and being named to the AFL's Top Prospects team. LHP James Paxton was 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA for Class AA Jackson, and his command and velocity is likely to get him to the big leagues sometime this year, even if he doesn't start the season with Seattle. 3B Vinnie Catricala hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs between Class-A and AA last year, and if he can straighten out his defense he could be part of the power infusion the Mariners seek. Hard-throwing RHP Taijuan Walker is just 19 years old after going 6-5 with a 2.85 ERA for Class-A Clinton last year, but the Mariners seem him on the fast track to the big leagues, his age notwithstanding.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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