PEORIA, Ariz. — Any infield that has All-Stars as fixtures at second base and third base, as the Mariners do with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, figures to be pretty good.
Sure, there are questions elsewhere, but the Mariners believe — unlike last year _ they’re reasonably well equipped in all areas with viable options.
The projected battle between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor to determine a starting shortstop is one of the top storylines in camp. Miller enters the spring with a slight edge because of his run-production potential.
First baseman Logan Morrison closed last season with two strong months, but he’s been injury-prone — playing fewer than 100 games in each of the last three years.
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So the Mariners need a backup/alternative. That could be Rickie Weeks, the long-time Milwaukee second baseman signed last week to fill a reserve role. Weeks sure doesn’t figure to play much at second with Cano around.
Or it could be erstwhile mega-prospect Jesus Montero, who is seeking to prove that he’s moved, finally, beyond a series of personal issues.
Veteran utilityman Willie Bloomquist, at 37, can also play first but must prove he’s sufficiently recovered from an injured right knee that required season-ending surgery on Aug. 9.
WHO IS IN CAMP?
On 40-man roster (10)
NO PLAYER B-T Primary 2014 club HR RBI AVG
8 Willie Bloomquist R-R Mariners 1 14 .278
22 Robinson Cano L-R Mariners 14 82 .314
83 Ji-Man Choi L-R AAA Tacoma 5 30 .283
72 Ketel Marte S-R AA Jackson 2 46 .302
5 Brad Miller L-R Mariners 10 36 .221
63 Jesus Montero R-R AAA Tacoma 16 74 .286
20 Logan Morrison L-L Mariners 11 38 .262
15 Kyle Seager L-R Mariners 25 96 .268
1 Chris Taylor R-R AAA Tacoma 5 37 .328
25 Rickie Weeks R-R Milwaukee 8 29 .274
Non-roster invites (3)
NO PLAYER B-T Primary 2014 club HR RBI AVG
36 Shawn O’Malley S-R AAA Salt Lake 3 38 .330
46 D.J. Peterson R-R Hi-A High Desert 18 73 .326
55 Carlos Rivero R-R AAA Pawtucket 5 36 .286
THE LOCKS: Cano, at 32, remains one of the game’s premier players, and Seager is a rising star who signed a seven-year deal in the off-season for $100 million.
Morrison is the unquestioned starter at first base after compiling a slash of .321/.375/.512 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 49 games over the final two months.
Weeks, too, is a lock. The Mariners didn’t shell out a $2 million guarantee for a “maybe.” And general manager Jack Zduriencik makes it clear that Bloomquist has a spot — if healthy.
SPRING BATTLES: Miller’s offensive potential makes him the preferred choice at shortstop if he avoids the defensive yips that surfaced last season on occasion.
That’s a big “if,” though. The Mariners are quite willing to accept what would likely be less pop from Taylor in order to get a reliable glove at shortstop.
How that competition plays out could affect the rest of the roster because Miller, due to his versatility, could still make the final 25 as a reserve — particularly if Bloomquist isn’t 100 percent.
Taylor is more likely to return to Triple-A Tacoma.
Bloomquist will be closely watched. If back in form, he can play everywhere on the diamond — including a backup at short if Miller wins the job, and a backup at first to Morrison.
Minor-league invite Shawn O’Malley can play short, which means he could get a look if Bloomquist isn’t full-go. Weeks makes an unlikely backup at short, but he is likely to see time at first.
And everyone is interested to see how Montero’s looks.
HELP IF NEEDED: Taylor would be a quick recall option at Tacoma if Miller wins the shortstop job — and (possibly) vice versa — but keep an eye on Ketel Marte, a 21-year-old who finished last year with the Rainiers.
A year from now, Marte, a switch-hitter, could be a strong candidate to be the starting shortstop.
The future might also be glimpsed in D.J. Peterson, the club’s first-round pick in 2013 who is also in big-league camp for the first time. He is likely to shift, increasingly, from third to first and also looms as a 2016 possibility.
Any injury to Seager or Morrison could bring Carlos Rivero into the picture. A nine-year pro acquired from Boston on waivers, he had a big winter season in Venezuela.
KEY SPRING DATES
Friday: Pitchers and catchers report to camp.
Saturday: First workout for pitchers and catchers.
February 24: Infielders and outfielders report to camp.
February 25: First full-squad workout.
March 4: Cactus League opener vs. San Diego at Peoria Stadium.
April 4: Cactus League finale vs. Colorado at Salt River Fields.
April 6: Regular-season opener vs. Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
TNT SPRING PREVIEW SERIES
Monday: Starting pitchers
Tuesday: Relief pitchers