Mailbag: How will 2006 bullpen look?

Mailbag: What will 2006 bullpen look like?

What does it mean when you hear that a player has been "outrighted" to Tacoma? -- Lisa E., Bonney Lake, Wash.

When a player is "outrighted" to the Minor Leagues, it means he is being removed from the 40-man roster.

Who was the "player to be named later" in the trade that sent Bret Boone to the Twins? -- Ryan M., San Diego, Calif.

The trade that sent Boone to the Twins in August was for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The teams have until December to finalize the deal.

I would like to know how they came up with the name "Mariners" and how come they chose a moose for their mascot? -- Dolly W., Seattle

A "Name the Team" contest was held after an expansion franchise was awarded Seattle in 1976. More than 15,000 entries were submitted, which included more than 600 potential nicknames. When the name "Mariners" was selected by ownership, all entries suggesting that name, in 25 words or less, were reviewed. The winner was Roger Szmodis of Bellevue, whose entry read: "I've selected Mariners because of the natural association between the sea and Seattle and her people, who have been challenged and rewarded by it."

The Mariner Moose was introduced as the team mascot on Opening Night, 1990. The Moose was selected from more than 2,500 entries submitted by children 14 years and younger. Ammon Spiller, a fifth grader from Central Elementary School in Ferndale, Wash., submitted the winning entry.

With the Mariners' salary cap, what would be the ideal free agent pickups for this offseason? Would the team focus on pitching or hitting more? -- Jacob O., Mill Creek, Wash.

There isn't a "salary cap," but the organization is expected to have a player payroll budget close to $90 million in 2006. The top priority going into the offseason is to add at least one starting pitcher, which could be accomplished via a trade, or signing a free agent. Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett is regarded as the top potential free agent starter. A left-handed power hitter is another high priority, along with a veteran catcher to help bridge the gap until No. 1 draft choice Jeff Clement reaches the Major Leagues.

The Mariners' bullpen did not seem as strong as many people thought it was. How likely is it that the Mariners will go out and get a good relief pitcher? -- Bronson A., Spokane, Wash.

The Mariners' relief corps actually had the sixth-best ERA (3.60) among American League teams last season, and was arguably the most consistent area for the team. But changes are forthcoming. Look for veterans Jeff Nelson and Shigetoshi Hasegawa to be replaced by Rafael Soriano and Scott Atchison.

Who is the bullpen catcher, and what is his history? Is he a former or want-to-be player? -- Ken E., Puyallup, Wash.

There are two bullpen catchers -- Allen Wirtala and Allen Turner. Wirtala, who has been the strength and conditioning coach for the past 11 years, is a graduate of Montana State and lives in Seattle with his wife, Lyndie. Turner, a graduate of Brigham Young University and is fluent in Japanese, joined the Mariners prior to the 2000 season as reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki's interpreter and workout companion. He is now Ichiro's interpreter, as well as a bullpen catcher.

With Hideki Matsui becoming a free agent, are the Mariners considering signing him? They do need at least one more outfielder. He's left handed, perfect for Safeco Field. -- Casey H., Spokane

Matsui certainly would fit nicely into the Mariners lineup as the left fielder, but the cost would be prohibitive -- in the neighborhood of around $10-$12 million a year for at least four or five years. Matsui made $8 million last season and drove in more than 100 runs for the third consecutive season. He enjoys playing for the Yankees and the prediction here is that he will re-sign with the Bronx Bombers.

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Did Adrian Beltre struggle because it was his first season in the AL? Beltre's OPS of the last five years (from 2001-2005) is 0.721/0.729/0.714/1.017/0.716. All the season OPS numbers are amazingly similar except for the 2004 season, when Beltre was eligible for free agency after the season. It seems pretty obvious that the 48-homer season in 2004 was just an aberration. Do you think Beltre came back to earth in 2005, or do you think he'll do better in 2006? -- Joon, Y., Urbana, Ill.

Many players struggle when they switch leagues, and Beltre definitely was one of them. It was unreasonable to expect him to match the numbers he put up for the Dodgers in 2004 (.334 average, 48 home runs, 121 RBIs) but he's much better than the .255 he batted this past season. Look for his batting average to climb substantially in '06, his home run total (19) to increase to somewhere between 25 and 30 and his RBI output to reach triple digits.

I know Pokey Reese was out the entire 2005 season, and was a pretty big part of the Red Sox club in 2004. What are the chances that the Mariners will hang onto him? -- Eric R., Warren, Wash.

Say goodbye to Pokey. The Mariners are thrilled with the defense Yuniesky Betancourt brings to the park every day, and Willie Bloomquist is a terrific backup.

Do you think Cha Seung Baek and/or Shin-soo Choo have a shot at the Majors in '06? -- David W., Seattle

It is too early in the offseason to make a prediction on either player. That being said, Baek could compete for a spot in the starting rotation in Spring Training -- depending on what happens between now and the opening of camp -- and Choo probably has a small chance of beginning the season on the 25-man roster. The Mariners organization still views both players as potential Major League players.

What do you think Soriano's role will be next year? -- Chris C., El Paso, Tex.

If closer Eddie Guardado returns, Soriano figures to handle the late-inning setup duties along with J.J. Putz.

Why don't the Mariners trade Felix Hernandez and get some good hitters? -- John C., N.J.

A talent like Hernandez comes along so rarely that trading him is totally out of the question. Every championship-caliber team has a No. 1 starting pitcher -- remember what Randy Johnson meant to the Mariners in the mid- to late-1990s and the Diamondbacks in 2001 when they won the World Series? Felix is a keeper. End of discussion.

Jim Street is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.