PEORIA, Ariz. – After spending a week at spring training with the Mariners, I am more convinced than ever that I can make a list of predictions that will be farther off base than if I had never left Seattle.
That’s the way it goes. You get down here, watch baseball, talk to players and coaches, hear the general manager and you start to think the Mariners have a chance to go 162-0.
Then when the season starts, you wonder how you could have been so optimistic. We’ve spent the last 14 years trying to think that things will be different, and they’ve remained the same, one disappointing season after another.
The following predictions include skepticism from the past and hope for the future. Let’s start by being unrealistically optimistic:
1. The Mariners will have two 100-RBI hitters. They have not had a hitter produce 100 RBIs since Raul Ibanez had 110 in 2008, but this year they’re going to have two – Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. I’ll also go as far to say that Cano, Seager and Nelson Cruz will combine for 300 RBIs, with Cano leading the way with 104, Seager with 102 and Cruz with 94. With the Mariners’ new approach of trying to create more traffic on the base-paths with better at-bats, controlling the zone, improving the on-base percentage, all of those things should lead to more opportunities for the heart of the order to drive ’em in.
2. Cano will be the American League MVP. No skepticism creeping in yet. In his first two seasons here, Cano has not been worth $24 million a year. But based on being fully healthy and having a terrific spring, he looks good to go. At the age of 33, he’s still in the twilight of his prime, young enough to do considerable damage, like he did in New York.
3. The bullpen will be better than expected. Probably like you, I look at the Mariners’ seven relievers and think: “Huh?” The only truly familiar name is Mike Montgomery, and he’s not even that familiar, plus he’s a starter who turned into an emergency reliever because of the shoulder injury to Charlie Furbush. Most of the rest of these guys – Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta and Vidal Nuno – have had success, but they’ve had their share of failures too. Tony Zych is the best story, the Mariners acquiring the flame-thrower for $1 in a trade with the Cubs. It’s telling that Nick Vincent, acquired Wednesday from the Padres, could be the best of the bunch. But since manager Scott Servais said he feels good about his bullpen, I will too.
4. Furbush won’t pitch this year. When I see “partially torn rotator cuff,” I picture a headline at some point saying: “Furbush out for season.” All spring long, I heard about him short-tossing, long-tossing, pitching from a mound, etc., and every time he threw, it was followed with news about tightness in his shoulder. Now he’s trying some sort of revolutionary blood treatment to help his joint, and hopefully it helps, but I’m guessing we won’t see him on a Safeco Field mound this year.
5. Hisashi Iwakuma will be the first Mariners’ pitcher to leave the rotation with a blister on his finger or something else. I’m still curious why he failed his physical with the Dodgers after signing that multi-million-dollar contract. There has to be something physically askew with him, and at his age, I just have my doubts about him holding up all season.
6. Felix Hernandez will win 20 games for the first time. Like others, I think wear and tear on his arm might catch up to him this year, but he’ll compensate with veteran savvy, and the Mariners should score more runs for him this year.
7. Leonys Martin will be the next great Mariners defensive center fielder. That will have him joining the conversation with Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Cameron and Franklin Gutierrez. Can’t wait to see his Ichiro-like arm.
8. When you’re deciding whether to take your kids to a Mariners game on a school night, go when Wade Miley pitches. He might be the quickest worker the Mariners have ever had. I’m predicting two games under two hours when Miley pitches this year. You can get the kids home and in bed by 10 p.m. when he starts.
9. The Mariners will regret their release of Jesus Montero, who will become a star in Toronto.
10. The Mariners will go to the playoffs. If general manager Jerry Dipoto thinks this team can win 85 games and Servais thinks a few more than that, I’ll go in between and say 87-75, good enough to earn a wild-card playoff berth.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com, KitsapSun.com and jimmooregocougs.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.