ON DECK: The Seattle Mariners open the 2014 season by travelling to Anaheim for a three-game set with the Angels. The Mariners are going to open with ace Felix Hernandez, and follow him with two of the most promising young pitchers in the organization: Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton. The Angels were counter with their ace Jered Weaver followed by C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago, making his Angel debut after three seasons with the White Sox. The Angles won the 2013 season series, 11-8.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Robinson Cano. Cano is used to media attention coming from the New York Yankees and playing in the biggest media market. However, his role has changed in Seattle. He is now The Man here; it is on his shoulders to try and raise this Seattle team from under .500 to over and a playoff contender. His supporting cast doesn’t have the offensive firepower that he had in New York. A slump out of the gate and the Mariners won’t survive this murderous April schedule. Their first sixteen games are against the three teams ahead of them in the A.L. West: the Angels, A’s, and Rangers.
AREA OF CONCERN: The middle of the order. I just touched on Cano having to play big, but he can’t do it alone. Since the Mariners didn’t bring back Kendrys Morales, the starting roles for 1B and DH go to Justin Smoak and Corey Hart. Smoak had good stretches at the plate last season, but he is a .227 career hitter. Corey Hart missed last season, and he is in the American League for the first time having spent his entire career with the Brewers before signing with Seattle in the offseason. Hart struggled at the plate in the Spring, and he will sit out tonight’s opener before playing the next two games at DH. April looms large for this young Mariners team, and the middle of the order has to knock in runs for a successful start.
PREDICTIONS: I think the Mariners can take two of three in this set. Anytime Felix Hernandez is on the mound, then you have to like your odds. I am also very high on Ramirez and Paxton. Ramirez excelled in the Spring to take the No. 2 after injuries to Walker and Iwakuma. Paxton won three of his four starts last season, compiling a 1.50 ERA. All four teams he faced at the time he faced them were in the playoff chase including a road win at N.L. champion St. Louis. There was a lot of competition for these rotation spots, and the Mariners are ready to put their youth in the forefront. Now, we’ll see if it adds up to wins.