Welcome to the week when spring training starts and we can focus on a sport that isn't the giant slalom.
On Wednesday, Seattle Mariners pitchers and catchers report. A day later, they hit the field - and next week the full squad shows up and works out.
That means the storylines start, too, along with the questions. Can Don Wakamatsu and this new roster improve upon a remarkable 85-win season in 2010? How many players will Jack Zduriencik add in the next six weeks?
A year ago, two young pitchers - Shawn Kelley and Chris Jakubauskas - had fabulous camps and made the opening day roster. There don't appear to be many jobs open on the staff this spring, but can Dan Cortes, Edward Paredes, Kanekoa Texeira or Anthony Vavaro pro e their cases this year?
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How about non-roster players? Mike Sweeney made the team from that position last spring. This year there are a handful of invitees to watch: pitchers Chad Cordero, Nick Hill and Josh Fields, catcher Josh Bard, outfielder Corey Patterson among them. And, of course, Sweeney - again.
What player will suprise with a superb exhibition season - Ken Griffey Jr.? Adam Moore? Michael Saunders?
Who's the most likely Mariner to go down with a spring injury? Erik Bedard? Jack Wilson? Milton Bradley?
How will the kids like Dustin Ackley, Ezequiel Carerra and Matt Tuiasosopo perform?
All answers welcomed, all thoughts appreciated. We're headed into uncharted baseball country once more, and as John Travolta likes to say - 'Ain't it cool?'
Now, a few links:
- The Biz of Baseball, always intriguing, brings you the arbitration record of every team in baseball since the process began. The Mariners are 10-9.
- Least surprising comment of the year comes from Philadelphia's natural wonder, Jamie Moyer, who leaves open the possibility of pitching beyond this season. Moyer is 47.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post - tabloid journalism at its best and worst - lists his off-season winners and losers. Winners: Roy Halladay and the Mariners. Losers: Royals and Mets.
- Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka made only 12 starts last year after hiding a spring groin injury from his team, but the Red Sox are delighted he's lost weight and seems in better shape today.
- Everett's Kirby Arnold has a story that recalls Seattle GM Zduriencik saying 'We're not conceding anything!' last spring - and saying 'We haven't proven anything!' today. Good read.
- The Denver Post comes up with a list of the Top Five National League story lines of 2010.
- The Chicago Tribune is already asking whether Lou Piniella managing in the final year of his contract will be a distraction. Yikes!