Completing the comparisons between the Seattle Mariners and the top two teams in the American League West, we look at the bullpens today.
Start with the closers. The Rangers signed Joe Nathan to allow Neftali Feliz to move into the starting rotation. The Angels have Jordan Walden, a 24-year-old rookie who saved 32 games last year and had his fastball clocked at 100 mph. The Mariners have Brandon League, who closed for the first time in 2012 and - despite not getting a save opportunity most of July - finished the year with 37 saves.
Who's best? Nathan is the veteran, a man with 261 career saves, but is a bit of a risk in Texas. Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2010, he saved 14 games last year, and while he appears healthy, it would be no surprise if he had arm issues from time to time. Walden was scarey-good last year, simply overpowering hitters. League had a week from hell last May, blowing four saves in a six-game span - then saved 28 of his last 30 opportunities.
Walden and League have to prove they can do the job for more than a season, and Nathan must show he's completely healthy. Heading into 2012, League and Walden have a slight edge.
Now, the rest of the bullpens:
Texas - RHPs Mike Adams, Mark Lowe, Koji Uehara, Scott Feldman, Yoshinori Tateyama, LHP Michael KirkmanLos Angeles -LHPs Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, RHPs LaTroy Hawkins, Rich Thompson, Bobby Cassevah, Trevor Bell.Seattle - LHP George Sherrill, RHPs Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Kelley, Steve Delabar, Chance Ruffin, Aaron Heilman.
All three groups will be counted on heavily this season, and they're all much alike - filled with largely unknown relievers. The Mariners bullpen is the least experienced - Wilhelmsen, Ruffin and Delabar had never thrown a big-league pitch until last year. If Seattle has any advantage, it's the makeup, which Lou Piniella would have loved for its power arms. The Angels have more experience, the Rangers can give an opposing team any number of different looks.
There's no clear leader here, though one may emerge.