With spring training off and running — well, OK, jogging — I am searching for signs that will give me hope about the Mariners. But baseball being baseball, I know how seasons sometimes go south before teams head north.
It will be a good sign, for instance, if general manager Jerry Dipoto doesn’t make a trade. Since he was hired 17 months ago, Dipoto has moved 32 players off Seattle’s 40-man active roster. I hope he sits back for a while, at least long enough for me to learn how to spell Thayago Vieira’s first name and Marc Rzepczynski’s last name.
It will be a bad sign if Dipoto swings any trade more significant than a minor-league deal, because that would mean a key player is down with an injury.
Speaking of injuries, it will be a good sign if Robinson Cano is named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic for the second consecutive time. Winning the award is difficult for somebody ailing with a sprain, strain, tear or pull.
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It will be a bad sign if closer Edwin Diaz returns from the WBC with reduced velocity. Dipoto has gotten assurances from the Puerto Rican national team that Diaz will be monitored closely, but still: Putting your 22-year old closer in the hands of another manager is like putting your 2-year-old dog in an unfamiliar kennel.
It will be a good sign if catcher Mike Zunino starts resisting pitches no bats have reached since Vladimir Guerrero’s retirement.
It will be a bad sign if Zunino continues his pattern of taking one walk for every three strikeouts.
It will be a good sign if starting pitcher Guy Yardo — check that, I mean Yovani Gallardo, still getting accustomed to all the new names — resembles the Gallardo who won 13 games for the 2015 Rangers.
It will be a bad sign if he resembles the Gallardo who won six games for the 2016 Orioles.
It will be a good sign if the refocused Felix Hernandez points out “the separation is in the preparation” as often as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson does.
It will be a bad sign if King Felix concludes every interview by saying “Go Hawks.”
It will be a good sign if James Paxton’s first Cactus League start is followed up, on schedule, with a second Cactus League start.
It will be a bad sign if the word “fingernail” is mentioned in conjunction with any Paxton appearance.
It will be a good sign if manager Scott Servais maintains his easy-going, we’re-in-this-thing-for-the-long-haul disposition off the field.
It will be a bad sign if Servais tells the bus driver to pull over on the way back from a spring-training road game, so the team can watch some kids playing ball. Former manager Lou Piniella did this for a short lecture in 1993, after the Mariners’ Cactus League record fell to 0-10. A condensed, edited-for-the-newspaper version of Piniella’s remarks: “You would get your butts beaten by these guys.”
It will be a good sign if Jarrod Dyson, who once said “that’s what speed do” after scoring from third base on an infield popup, leads off the exhibition season with a bunt single.
It will be a bad sign if Dyson fails to advance beyond second base on a line-drive hit, telling reporters afterward that “speed be overrated.”
It will be a good sign if rookie first-base platoon project Daniel Vogelbach scoops the ball out of the dirt to prevent an errant throw.
It will be a bad sign if an accurate throw to first plunks Vogelbach in the ribs.
It will be a good sign if the Mariners find themselves taking the field for morning workouts under blue skies, day after day.
It will be a bad sign if the Cactus League opener is postponed by inclement weather.
In any event, come rain or shine, I can’t wait to tune into the radio on a weekday afternoon and hear the voices of Dave Sims and Rick Rizzs answering questions I’ve got about the unknown: What’s Jean Segura’s batting stance look like? Is right fielder Mitch Haniger as rangy as advertised? Why did Dipoto identify lefty Drew Smyly — 7-12 last season with the Rays — as a pivotal acquisition?
I’m especially curious about Guy Yardo. Oops, I did it again.
Spring training isn’t just for the players.