SEATTLE -- February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in U.S. history. Veteran journalist Dave Sims, who is preparing for his 10th season as the Mariners' television play-by-play announcer, took time this week to talk about the importance of Black History Month, as well as remembering the notable accomplishments of black Americans in Major League Baseball.
Sims, 62, is a two-time Emmy Award winner who began his career as a sports writer for the New York Daily News before going on to play-by-play work on radio and television covering the NFL, college basketball and MLB.
If you had to pick the best breakout candidate for the Mariners this season, who would it be?
-- Bob W., Spokane, Wash.
I expect Taijuan Walker to take a big step forward this year and really be a key member of the rotation and a critical part of the Mariners' hopes if they're going to compete for a postseason berth. Seattle is keeping expectations low for the 23-year-old by talking about him as one of the three guys fighting for the fourth and fifth starting berths -- along with Nathan Karns and James Paxton -- but he has the ability to be right there with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of the rotation.
SEATTLE -- When new Mariners skipper Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto preach to their players this season about the need to control the strike zone, work pitchers and ultimately do whatever to get on base more often, they'll find a ready pupil in Boog Powell.
And that, of course, is a big reason the young outfielder is now part of the Mariners' organization, working out daily in Peoria, Ariz., already in preparation for the start of Spring Training later this month.
Contract worth up to $4M with incentives, includes invite to big league camp
By Greg Johns
SEATTLE -- Jerry Dipoto's search for a right-handed hitting first baseman to platoon with Adam Lind turned international on Wednesday, as the Mariners announced they'd agreed to terms on a one-year Minor League deal with Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee.
Also signed to a Minor League contract was catcher Steve Lerud. Both deals include an invitation to big league camp later this month. No financial terms were announced, but a report from Korean baseball writer and commentator Min Hook-ki indicated Lee could earn up to $4 million with incentives if he makes the Major League club.
SEATTLE -- A familiar face was missing at last weekend's FanFest as veteran broadcaster Dave Sims, who has been the Mariners television play-by-play man for the past nine years, remained home in New York recovering from prostate cancer surgery.
But Sims, who'll turn 63 in two weeks, vows to be ready to join the Mariners at Spring Training at the end of February in preparation for the televised Cactus League games on ROOT Sports in March.
SEATTLE -- Of the many newcomers dotting the Mariners' roster for the upcoming season, the one with the most pressure to perform might be Steve Cishek. And that's just fine with the sidearming right-hander, who leaped at the chance to sign with Seattle once he heard it wanted him to fill the closer's role.
Cishek and the Mariners appear to be a fine fit. Seattle needed a ninth-inning man after a rough year in that department in 2015, and Cishek is seeking a chance to show that last year, when he lost his job after two and a half strong seasons as a closer with the Marlins, was a blip on his radar.
SEATTLE -- A total of 21,771 people, the second-highest attendance figure in Mariners FanFest history, turned out at Safeco Field over the weekend to enjoy an early preview of the 2016 season.
The two-day attendance figure was shy of last year's record 25,209, but still stands as second-best in the event's 18-year history. FanFest drew 21,019 in 2014 and 17,952 in '13 after totaling 9,774 in '12.
SEATTLE -- Having played the past four seasons with the American League West-rival Angels, Chris Iannetta is plenty familiar with the Mariners. And as he toured Safeco Field and took part in the weekend's FanFest, the veteran catcher wasted no time acclimating himself to his new home.
"It's going to be exciting," the 32-year-old said durig a break from his autograph and fan-interview sessions. "They had a really good core group of guys last year with really high expectations. The pitching staff got a lot better. It was already good to begin with, but they added some guys that are going to give us a lot of innings. It's going to be really good."
There's a good chance that Mariners pitching phenom Taijuan Walker might already be your new favorite pitcher. The guy has upside coming out of his ears, once dressed up as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for Halloween and can do a behind-the-back dunk:
SEATTLE -- Change has been the theme of this year's offseason for the Mariners. From general manager Jerry Dipoto to manager Scott Servais to a roster now littered with fresh faces, the franchise has been largely turned upside down.
For third baseman Kyle Seager, one of the Mariners' mainstays, that fresh course is a welcome path.
SEATTLE -- Alex Jackson had a rough go in his first full season of professional baseball, but the young Mariners outfielder is still ranked among the Top 100 Prospects in the game in the latest listing by MLBPipeline.com.
Jackson, who turned 20 on Christmas Day, is the only Mariners prospect to crack the 2016 preseason rankings. He's at No. 94 after ending last season at 44.
Bill Swift is a baseball lifer. And right now he is enjoying life under the national radar.
The second player selected in the 1984 Draft, Swift spent 13 years in the big leagues, pitching for the Mariners, Giants and Rockies. He led the National League with a 2.08 ERA with the Giants in 1992 and won 21 games for them the next year.
SEATTLE -- New general manager Jerry Dipoto didn't waste any time restructuring the Mariners' roster this offseason, engineering 11 trades and five Major League free-agent signings since replacing Jack Zduriencik last September.
Now, Dipoto is eager to see how a club that appears more athletic and features better on-base percentages and improved pitching depth will come together for the start of Spring Training in three weeks.
SEATTLE -- Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre will be sidelined for at least the next six months after undergoing surgery earlier this week to repair a broken fibula and severely sprained right ankle, trainer Rick Griffin said on Thursday.
Sucre injured his leg sliding into second base during a Venezuelan League game about 10 days ago. He flew to Seattle this week so Mariners team physician Dr. Ed Khalfayan could perform the surgery.
SEATTLE -- To paraphrase the late, great Yogi Berra, the new Mariners regime is making bold efforts to show its players that 90 percent of Seattle baseball is now mental, with the other half being physical.
All kidding aside, the different approach to roster-building that has resulted in drastic turnover heading into Spring Training is only one part of the radical transformation of a team that finished 76-86 in 2015. New general manager Jerry Dipoto has a plan in place, and he's spent all winter executing it.
SEATTLE -- Fifteen players not on the Mariners' 40-man roster have been extended invitations to Spring Training, the club announced Thursday, including former first-round Draft pick Danny Hultzen. And general manager Jerry Dipoto says Hultzen, 26, will be given a shot to earn a spot in Seattle's bullpen.
Hultzen, the second player selected in the 2011 Draft, has been dealing with shoulder issues the past three years. He was dropped off the 40-man roster this offseason after being designated for assignment following a season during which he threw just eight innings at Double-A Jackson before being sidelined with shoulder fatigue.
SEATTLE -- Right-hander Dylan Unsworth, a 23-year-old right-hander in the Mariners organization, has been named to the South African team that will compete in a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament next month in Sydney, Australia.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder has been with the Mariners since signing as an international free agent in 2010.
Cardinals ace: Honor 'means so much more to me' than sports
By Doug Miller
SEATTLE -- Adam Wainwright has stood victorious atop a pitcher's mound after recording the final out in the World Series. He has limped off the field with a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2015 season right after it began.
And with all that he's experienced on a baseball field throughout an exemplary playing career, the St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander knows that there's a lot more to life than what happens between the lines.
I realize Nelson Cruz may seem to be the Mariners' best fit for designated hitter, considering the other outfielders' fielding is better, but doesn't he have a significantly lower batting average as a DH?
-- Mike D., Orem, Utah
That's an interesting situation, as indeed Cruz put up a .337/.402/.670 line with 31 home runs and 59 RBIs in 312 at-bats at right field last year, compared to .263/.333/.450 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs in 278 at-bats at DH. For his career, he's hit .262/.324/.474 in 192 games at DH, which is lower than his overall career numbers of .273/.334/.510.
SEATTLE -- When the Mariners open their 2016 season, they won't be a young team building for the future. This will be a squad built to compete now, as evidenced by a projected lineup that will have just one position player younger than 28.
But that one youngster, 22-year-old shortstop Ketel Marte, will be an important piece of the puzzle. That is why veteran second baseman Robinson Cano took the rookie under his wing last season and made sure he got his career off on the right foot.
SEATTLE -- Gaby Sanchez, a one-time National League All-Star first baseman who played in Japan last year, has agreed to a Minor League contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to Major League camp, according to ESPN.com.
Of all the roster additions Jerry Dipoto has made this offseason, which one do you think will wind up being his best move?
-- Frank R., Renton, Wash.
I liked the trade for Joaquin Benoit and the signing of Steve Cishek to solidify the back of the bullpen, which is certainly an area that could greatly affect the Mariners' chances next season. And the acquisitions of outfielder Nori Aoki, first baseman Adam Lind and catcher Chris Iannetta should improve the offensive production at those three spots, while Leonys Martin beefs up the defense in center. But if you want me to pick one, I'm going to go against the grain and say that acquiring starter Wade Miley will wind up being the most surprisingly successful addition.
SEATTLE -- In addition to a Ken Griffey Jr. weekend to celebrate their first National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, the Mariners have five bobblehead nights and four fireworks shows planned for the upcoming season as the club announced its special events calendar on Tuesday.
The Griffey weekend on Aug. 5-7 will follow his induction in the Hall of Fame on July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y., and will include the No. 24 jersey retirement ceremony prior to the Aug. 6 game against the Angels. The first 20,000 fans at Safeco Field that night will receive a replica Hall of Fame plaque.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Travis Ishikawa accomplished something last year that the Giants couldn't: He reached the postseason. And while Ishikawa didn't make the Pirates' 25-man roster for their Wild Card Game loss to the Cubs, he still featured quite prominently in October.
Ishikawa joined a cast of sluggers whose monumental home runs provided video for a thrilling montage that MLB Network aired to promote its postseason telecasts. Ishikawa's walk-off long ball for the Giants in Game 5 of the 2014 National League Championship Series appeared in a 61-second highlight sequence of similar homers hit by Carlton Fisk, David Freese, Joe Carter, George Brett, Jeff Kent, Reggie Jackson, Chris Chambliss, Derek Jeter, Ozzie Smith, Robin Ventura, Kirk Gibson and Jayson Werth, among others.
This is a leap year, and for Major League Baseball, it will mean a one-day leap in the annual non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline this season will be moved to Aug. 1 from the traditional July 31 -- which in 2016 falls on a Sunday. The deadline is 4 p.m. ET, and on July 31, there are seven games scheduled to begin between 1-1:30, five between 2-3:30 and three at 4. There are only eight games on Aug. 1, all of which are night games.
Remember when the Mariners were the trendy preseason pick to click in the American League West a year ago?
They came up a victory short of an AL Wild Card spot in 2014, and with Robinson Cano heading into his second year with the club, along with the addition of free-agent bats Nelson Cruz and Rickie Weeks, Seattle was set to take that next step.