Before the final game of 2012, Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge was asked what message he had for his players as they scatter into the offseason.
“I want them to understand just how good we’re going to be in the future,” Wedge said. “I don’t say that without reason. The people who don’t want to see it, it’s because they choose not to see it or they’re just negative by nature. Ultimately, we are a better team this year. That’s a fact. We’re going to continue to get better.”
The cold numbers of the American League standings confirm these Mariners were better, improving to 75-87 after going 67-95 in 2011.
And on a cool Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field, the Mariners flashed what their manager was talking about with a 12-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Blake Beavan breezed to the victory, pitching eight innings without notching a strikeout. Angels starter Jered Weaver went one inning and took the loss.
“I wasn’t trying not to strike them out – that’s a fair statement,” Beavan said. “I’m not a strikeout guy anyway. For me it’s just about getting outs, keeping the ball in the park, keeping the ball on the ground, keeping the ball down. I felt I did a pretty good job of that, and had some luck too.”
Wedge said Beavan’s 11-11 season record showed enough to keep him in the mix for the 2013 rotation.
Also helping his cause for next season was right fielder Casper Wells, who was Wednesday’s offensive star by matching his career high with five runs batted in, including a three-run home run to left that broke the game open in a six-run seventh inning. Defensively, Wells recorded his team-high eighth outfield assist, nailing Mike Trout at home in the sixth.
“He’s really just scratching the surface (offensively),” Wedge said of Wells. “So, that’s why we wanted to take a look at him. He has our attention. And you look at the way he plays the outfield: I think he’s as good as anybody. He has the most accurate arm out there, and he’s athletic.”
Three other runs were driven in by another player Wedge identified as a key piece of the Mariners’ future: catcher Jesus Montero, who went 2-for-4 to end the season with a .260 batting average, 62 RBI and 15 home runs.
“He learned so much,” Wedge said. “He went through a lot mentally; a lot physically, emotionally. And so when you talk about the upside for him, I think there’s a great deal there. He has a lot of work ahead of him.
“But he held his own for a 22-year-old – and really unfairly to him, someone we had to throw in the middle of our lineup a lot.”
Wedge said Montero’s primary position next season is yet to be determined. He did say that Montero always will be in the mix as designated hitter, and he needs to improve his hitting in that role.
Looking to next spring, Wedge also said:
• The team “is hoping to” contend, but he added that progress will be measured in a deeper way than simply aiming at a goal such as a .500 record or better.
• The top offseason goal is improving the offense. To do that, he said the club might try to go outside the organization to pick up “a veteran presence for the middle of the lineup.”
• He expects Brendan Ryan to be the starting shortstop, and for him to hit better than the .194 of this season.
• Second baseman Dustin Ackley will be “a hell of a big league player,” but that Ackley is still figuring that out. Ackley batted leadoff in the finale, but Wedge said he could bat first, second or third next season.
Like many of his teammates, Ackley spent his final night in the Mariners’ clubhouse looking back at a season just completed and forward to the one coming next spring.
“Now that it’s over, it’s like it all happened so quick,” he said. “It’s been great: ups and downs, a great experience for everybody here. I think we’ve learned a lot, experienced a lot, and that’s going to help us moving forward.”
The Mariners announced these minor league awards for 2012:
Player of the Year: infielder Stefen Romero (High Desert/Jackson); Pitcher of the Year: right-hander Carter Capps (Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle); Heart and Soul Award (for play and leadership): infielder Brad Miller (High Desert/Jackson); Most Improved Player: right-handed pitcher Brandon Maurer (Jackson). The final-game crowd of 15,614 brought the unofficial Safeco Field season attendance to 1,723,286. The Mariners’ next regular-season game is tentatively scheduled for April 1, 2013, at Oakland.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners