2. How will the inexperienced catching hold up?
The unexpected departure of Kenji Johjima left the Mariners with two catchers that have a combined 106 big league games under their chest protector. Rob Johnson (100 games) worked so well with ace right-hander Felix Hernandez that the Cy Young Award runner-up was 15-2 with Johnson behind the plate. Adam Moore has great potential on both defense and offense and is the odds-on favorite to break camp as the backup.
3. Can Milton Bradley be happy from wire-to-wire?
Every finger in the front office is crossed that the veteran outfielder has smooth sailing in 2010, the way he did with the Rangers in 2008, when the switch-hitter established career highs with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs, had a stellar .436 on-base percentage, and was selected to the All-Star team. Having Griffey as a teammate should help Bradley stay happy and focused.
85-77, third in the AL West
Projected batting order
1. RF Ichiro Suzuki
.352 BA, .386 OBP, .465 SLG, 11 HR, 46 RBI in 2009
2. 3B Chone Figgins
.298 BA, .395 OBP, .393 SLG, 5 HR, 54 RBI in 2009
3. CF Franklin Gutierrez
.283 BA, .339 OBP, .425 SLG, 18 HR, 70 RBI in 2009
4. 2B Jose Lopez
.272 BA, .303 OBP, .463 SLG, 25 HR, 96 RBI in 2009
5. LF Milton Bradley
.257 BA, .378 OBP, .387 SLG, 12 HR, 40 RBI in 2009
6. DH Ken Griffey Jr.
.214 BA, .324 OBP, .411 SLG, 19 HR, 54 RBI in 2009
7. 1B Casey Kotchman
.268 BA, .339 OBP, .382 SLG, 7 HR, 48 RBI in 2009
8. C Rob Johnson
.213 BA, .289 OBP, .326 SLG, 2 HR, 27 RBI in 2009
9. SS Jack Wilson
.255 BA, .292 OBP, .362 SLG, 5 HR, 39 RBI in 2009
1. Felix Hernandez
, 19-5, 2.49 ERA in 2009
2. Cliff Lee
, 14-13, 3.22 ERA in 2009
3. Ryan Rowland-Smith
, 5-4, 3.74 ERA in 2009
4. Ian Snell
, 7-10, 4.84 ERA in 2009
5. Doug Fister
, 3-4, 4.13 ERA in 2009
Closer: David Aardsma
, 38/42 saves, 2.52 ERA in 2009
RH setup man: Mark Lowe
, 3.26 ERA in 2009
LH setup man: Garrett Olson
, 5.60 ERA in 2009
The new guys
INF Chone Figgins:
A premier leadoff hitter with the Angels in 2009, the switch-hitting third baseman will bat behind Ichiro Suzuki this season, giving the Mariners a terrific table-setting tandem. Figgins scored 114 runs last season, second in the American League, and was rewarded with a four-year contract with the Mariners as a free agent. He also fits the "high character" profile that's important to the franchise.
LHP Cliff Lee:
On most pitching staffs, the veteran left-hander would be the ace. But being No. 2 behind right-hander Felix Hernandez suits him and the Mariners just fine. Lee won't blow you away with power, but he is one crafty pitcher and would rather get a ground out or fly out on one or two pitches than strike someone out on a full-count pitch.
LF Milton Bradley:
The friendly confines of Wrigley Field were anything but that for the controversial Bradley, who has a ton of talent, but a short-fuse temper. He prefers to be "one of the guys" on the team and performs the best when he's happy and relaxed. Bradley has had solid seasons with Oakland (2006) and Texas ('08) and the Mariners are hoping that the good-in-the-AL West trend continues in Seattle.
1B Casey Kotchman:
Acquired in a trade with the Red Sox, Kotchman takes over for the Mariners' home-run leader last season, Russell Branyan. No one expects Kotchman to hit 31 home runs, but his defense and tough-out mentality works well in the grand scheme of things.
RHP Brandon League:
Another power arm in the bullpen, League figures to be a late-inning setup man and also provide closing assistance when right-hander David Aardsma needs a breather.
OF Eric Byrnes:
The team's intensity rose a few notches when Byrnes was signed as a free agent. Injuries hampered him the previous two seasons, but he's healthy now and figures to get playing time in left field and designated hitter. He also will do his part to make the clubhouse atmosphere positive.
1B Ryan Garko:
A .313 career hitter against left-handers in 422 at-bats, Garko provides a nice complement to Kotchman, especially against the AL West, which is loaded with quality left-handed starters.
Prospects to watch
2B Dustin Ackley:
The second-overall Draft selection last June was expected to be moved back to the outfield after playing first base during his final season at University of North Carolina. But his college coach mentioned that Ackley could become a top-notch second baseman and the Mariners decided to give it a shot. The transition has gone so well that he could see action at that position during some Cactus League games this spring.
INF Matt Tuiasosopo:
Once heralded as the heir apparent to Adrian Beltre at third base, the homegrown product now must battle for reserve spot on the team. A shortstop in high school, he has added second base and third to his repertoire. Elbow surgery set him back last season and he's trying to find the form that enabled him to bat .424 in 23 Spring Training games.
RHP Josh Fields:
A stellar Arizona Fall League showing was just what the former first-round Draft choice needed to jump-start his professional career. A seven-month holdout set him back more than he ever anticipated, but he could be knocking on the MLB door by the end of this season.
On the rebound
DH Ken Griffey Jr.:
A troublesome left knee, which he had arthroscopic surgery on for the second time in two years, could be just what the doctor ordered for Junior to have a solid season in what many expect to be his last campaign. He batted a career-low .214 last season, but more than made up for that with 19 home runs and helping to develop great team chemistry. His primary duties will be in the designated hitter spot, but if his knees hold up, he could see more action in left field than he did a year ago -- 11 games.
SS Jack Wilson:
A sore left hamstring, bruised right heel and unfamiliarity with the AL pitchers was a triple-whammy for the veteran acquired from the Pirates just before the non-waiver trading deadline. He batted just .224 in 31 games with Seattle and he's a much better hitter than that.
LF Milton Bradley:
It was not quite one-and-done with the Cubs for the controversial switch-hitter, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract. The mercurial outfielder was invited to leave the team in September, the latest chapter in a series of missteps he has taken in an up-and-down 10-year MLB career. Manager Don Wakamatsu has been a master so far in building one-on-one relationships with his players, and this will be his biggest test yet.
1B Russell Branyan:
A career year, featuring 31 home runs and 76 RBIs, prompted the Mariners to offer a one-year, plus an option year contract, but Branyan turned it down and the two sides went in different directions. His majestic home runs will be missed, but not his 149 strikeouts in 431 at-bats.
3B Adrian Beltre:
The best defensive third baseman in franchise history took his Gold Glove to the Red Sox. Beltre became increasingly frustrated at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and was not able to live up to the offensive numbers he accumulated during his final season with the Dodgers.
RHP Brandon Morrow:
The organization did him no favors moving him back-and-forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Perhaps he will find a role and stick with it with the Blue Jays.
3B RHP Miguel Batista:
The best thing going for the right-hander was his versatility. He could handle virtually every role on a pitching staff, but his inconsistency kept managers and pitching coaches scratching their heads.
C Kenji Johjima:
The first and only Japanese-born catcher to play in the Major Leagues surprised the organization by opting out of the final two years of his three-year, $24 million contract and signed a more lucrative deal with a Japanese team. His defense improved each of his four seasons with Seattle, but his offense gradually subsided.
RHP Chris Jakubauskas:
A virtual unknown when Spring Training opened, the Independent League product pitched his way onto the 25-man Opening Day roster and, except for a one-appearance stint in the Minors, was with the Mariners the entire season. Soon after being removed from the 40-man roster, he was claimed and signed by the Pirates.
RHP Carlos Silva:
A 5-18 record in 36 starts over two rough seasons with the Mariners says it all. A sinkerball specialist, Silva seemed to be suited for Safeco Field, but the four-year, $48 million contract he received became a mental obstacle for him and he finally was traded to the Cubs.
INF Bill Hall:
Acquired from the Brewers in mid-August, Hall was unable to take advantage of a second chance, batting .200 in 34 games with Seattle. He was among the players traded to the Red Sox for Kotchman.
OF Endy Chavez:
A 10-game hitting streak to start the season helped overcome the loss of right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who went on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Chavez's season came to a terrible ending as he suffered a severe knee injury in a collision with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt on June 19.