Today is Opening Day for the Mariners and I’m feeling a little last minute panic. There’s no turning back now as Felix takes the mound in a few hours. I’ve covered what I’m excited for but it’s pretty clear that this team isn’t perfect (or anywhere close to it for that matter). Here are the top five things I’m worried about:
1. Franklin Gutierrez’s Stomach
What is going on with Guti’s stomach? Gutierrez, the Gold Glove center fielder, is going to start the season on the DL with the same issue that beleaguered him last year. Unfortunately, no one knows what that issue is. Doctors have narrowed it down to a stomach issue. Outside of that, it’s unclear. It was initially reported as a slow digestive tract, but there seems to be some other issue. He’s been through numerous tests and changed his diet but the issue still lingers. Gutierrez won’t be cleared to play until they find out exactly what the problem is. We just don’t know when that will be.
2. Pineda on Opening Day Roster
Pineda is ready to go, but I’m still surprised that the Mariners named him as their fifth starter. He’s 22 years old and a rookie. Typically, rookie pitchers are limited to somewhere around 150 innings. What is the benefit to bringing him up at the start of the season just to shut him down when he reaches his limit? Why not let him start in Triple-A and then bring up in June?
3. Middle Infield Situation
The biggest Spring Training battle for the Mariners was at shortstop. Between Brendan Ryan and Jack Wilson. Seriously? Who cares? Ryan “won” the position, which shifted Wilson to second base, but we all know Dustin Ackley is going to take that position at some point this season. We want Ackley and we want him now. The middle infield for the Mariners is a joke and fans are hoping that Ackley is the savior. Unlike Pineda, Ackley isn’t as much of a risk for injury because he’s not a pitcher. So why not let Ackley learn in the majors? He’s going to struggle but Ryan and Wilson aren’t looking much better. Apparently that’s not what the Mariners want to do, but we’ll see him eventually. For now, we are stuck with Ryan and Wilson.
4. Milton Bradley
Thanks to Gutierrez’s stomach, Langerhans has to be shifted to center field leaving left field open for… MILTON BRADLEY! I drank the Kool-Aid last year. I thought he had changed and would be a twister, tearing through the AL West. A hungry, hungry hippo diving for balls in the outfield. He was supposed to finally get it right in Seattle. He just turned out to be more trouble than he’s worth. He makes our outfield about as solid as a Jenga tower after 20 turns. Now Cubs fans are laughing at our sinking battleship we call the USS Mariner. Yes, Bradley played a big role in our disappointing season last year but how’s Carlos Silva working out for you? That’s what I thought. Umm… yahtzee?
5. The Bullpen
The Mariners will start the season with the following relievers: Chris Ray, Aaron Laffey, David Pauley, Jamey Wright, Josh Lueke, Tom Wilhelmsen and replacement closer Brandon League. If you don’t recognize any of those name, don’t worry, only three of them (Pauley, Wright and League) pitched for the Mariners last season. Regular closer David Aardsma is still recovering from hip surgery (wait… how old is he?) and has just started throwing. Most reports say that the Mariners are targeting a return by the end of April. Considering he’s only thrown twice since the surgery, I think that’s a little too optimistic.