Seattle Mariners

For once, Felix Hernandez not a given as Mariners’ Opening Day starter. Projecting the Mariners’ 25-man roster

Felix Hernandez on being ready for Opening Day: 'That's the kind of guy I am'

Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez talks about Opening Day.
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Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez talks about Opening Day.

This will be more evident after Saturday.

Felix Hernandez is scheduled to pitch just his second spring training Cactus League start when he takes the mound against the Cubs at 6:40 p.m. Saturday at Peoria.

If he looks serviceable, as he did in his minor league start on Tuesday, then the King gets his 10th consecutive Opening Day start for the Mariners – the longest active streak in baseball – when they play the Indians on Thursday at Safeco Field.

If not, then they’ll go with their most productive pitcher (at least dating back to last year) in James Paxton, likely abbreviating his scheduled Sunday start.

“I’m comfortable, way comfortable,” Hernandez said after his 38-pitch, three-inning minor league start on Tuesday, his first appearance since a comebacker careened off his upper right forearm (could have been worse) in the second inning of his Feb. 26 start.

“I feel really good with my mechanics, under control, not doing too much. … Good curveball, good changeup, good command – everything was on.”

We’ll see.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in his “Wheelhouse” podcast earlier this offseason that some of the expectations on Hernandez are unrealistic – at least expectations that he can still be the same Cy Young-caliber arm every outing.

But he also said during his pre-spring training press conference that, “Nuts and bolts, it comes down to how Felix comes in at spring training. If Felix gives us 16 or less (starts), like was the case last year we are going to have to answer a lot of questions.”

“Felix is going to overcome,” Dipoto said during his podcast. “He’s going to figure this out. And the statement I made about his bulk – wasn’t a challenge. Nor was it putting to much weight on his shoulders. Felix is the Mariners in a lot of ways over the past 15 years. If Felix is not Cy Young version, if Felix is healthy and takes the ball and pitches the way he has the past two years (when healthy), the Mariners are going to be a good team.”

So let’s get to it, then. Here’s a projection of the Mariners’ pitching staff on Opening Day.

A note, though: The Mariners have three off days in their first eight days of the season. Dipoto told reporters recently that they plan to go with four starters and eight out of the bullpen until needing to add a fifth starter on April 11. So this projection takes that into account.

And if you missed it, here is the breakdown of the Mariners’ projected outfield, and here is the infield/catchers.

STARTING PITCHERS

Felix Hernandez



RHP FELIX HERNADEZ

2017 season: 6-5 (16 starts), 86.2 IP, 4.36 ERA, 78 Ks, 26 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 1 start, 1.1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 2 Ks

LHP JAMES PAXTON

2017 season: 12-5 (24 starts), 136 IP, 2.98 ERA, 156 Ks, 37 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 4 starts, 11.1 IP, 13 ER (10.32 ERA), 11 Ks, 4 BBs



RHP MIKE LEAKE

2017 season (Cardinals/Mariners): 10-13 (31 starts), 186 IP, 3.92 ERA, 130 Ks, 37 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 6 starts, 23.1 IP, 14 ER (5.40 ERA), 14 Ks, 1 BB

LHP MARCO GONZALES

2017 season (Cardinals/Mariners): 1-1 (8 starts), 40 IP, 6.08 ERA, 32 Ks, 11 BBs; Minors: 8-4 (14 starts), 86.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 73 Ks, 22 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 6 starts, 21.1 IP, 4 ER (1.69 ERA), 18 Ks, 7 BBs

BULLPEN

Edwin Diaz(2)



RHP Edwin Diaz (CL)

2017 season: 4-6 (34 saves), 66 IP, 3.27 ERA, 89 Ks, 32 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 1-1, 8.2 IP, 3 ER (3.12 ERA), 11 Ks, 3 BBs

RHP Juan Nicasio

2017 season (Pirates, Phillies, Cardinals): 5-5 (6 saves), 72.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 72 Ks, 20 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 1-0, 7.2 IP, 1 ER (1.17 ERA), 7 Ks, 1 BB

Juan Nicasio



RHP Nick Vincent

2017 season: 3-3, 64.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 50 Ks, 13 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 0-0, 4 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 3 Ks, 1 BB

LHP Marc Rzepczynski

2017 season: 2-2 (1 save), 31.1 IP, 4.02 ERA, 25 Ks, 20 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 2-0, 8 IP, 3 ER (3.38 ERA), 9 Ks, 2 BBs

RHP Dan Altavilla

2017 season: 1-1, 46.2 IP, 4.24 ERA, 52 Ks, 20 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 1-1, 9.2 IP, 2 ER (1.86 ERA), 13 Ks, 2 BBs

Dan ALtavilla



LHP James Pazos

2017 season: 4-5, 53.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 65 Ks, 24 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 0-0, 9.2 IP, 3 ER (2.79 ERA), 9 Ks, 4 BBs

RHP Casey Lawrence

2017 season (Blue Jays, Mariners): 2-3, 55.1 IP, 6.34 ERA, 52 Ks, 25 BBs

2018 spring training (through March 23): 0-0, 15 IP, 3 ER (1.80 ERA), 17 Ks, 2 BBs

LHP Wade LeBlanc

2017 season (Pirates): 5-2 (1 save), 68 IP, 4.50 ERA, 54 Ks, 17 BBs

2018 spring training (Yankees, through March 23): 0-1, 13.2 IP, 8 ER (5.27 ERA), 10 Ks, 1 BB

The bullpen certainly isn’t as deep without right-hander David Phelps, who was slated to be a set-up man in the back-end of the pen alongside Juan Nicasio and Nick Vincent to bridge the gap to 24-year-old closer Edwin Diaz.

But Phelps is getting season-ending Tommy John surgery on Monday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. So what was projected to maybe be the Mariners’ deepest position group is a little thinner. But Dipoto and Mariners manager Scott Servais have been very high on right-hander Dan Altavilla.

Altavilla has a fastball that has reached 97 mph and complements that with a slider. But it’s his command that has looked improved this spring.

“Maybe Danny Altavilla comes in and plays a bigger role in the back end of the bullpen early in the season,” Servais said on Friday. “I was hoping to kind of keep him in the weeds so he could kind of grow into that spot. But we have to get him out of the weeds now with the Phelps injury.

The Mariners would say their nice surprise would be Casey Lawrence, who projects as a long reliever out of the bullpen. He’s not on the 40-man roster, but the Mariners have three remaining spots. So they wouldn’t have to use any minor-league options or outright a player to the minor leagues to add him.

Then there’s LeBlanc, who the Mariners reportedly signed to a big league contract on Saturday, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. They could go with right-hander Chasen Bradford, instead, or keep scouring the waiver wires, but LeBlanc, entering his 10th major league season, actually has reverse splits for his career (righties have hit .217 against him and lefties hit .295).

“I think we certainly have capable guys,” Servais said. “Nicasio has been great this spring. All of our guys that were projected to make our bullpen are throwing very well.”

As for that fifth starter spot once April 11 hits, Erasmo Ramirez isn’t expected to be ready to go until maybe the second or third turn in the rotation after that as he recovers from a strained lat. He threw a bullpen session on Friday.

So that spot would likely go to Ariel Miranda, who led the Mariners in innings pitched last season filling in for their myriad injuries. He started the season as their most reliable pitcher until he began to wear down as his mechanics slipped and he started tipping his pitches. A fresh Miranda is a different story and he certainly has the advantage for that temporary fifth slot.

But there’s also Rob Whalen, who has looked good at times, especially with his curveball, this spring but was optioned to Tacoma this week.

And, dare it be said ... maybe eventually some Hisashi Iwakuma? The former All-Star who missed almost all of 2017 with shoulder inflamation and eventual debridement surgery seems to bee looking good in his recovery and could be the Mariners’ “secret weapon”, say Mariners manager Scott Servais and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.

James Paxton_2



TNT PICK TO CLICK

James Paxton

The “Big Maple” put everything together last year exept for health. But the big lefty has never had a (knock on wood) big injury like a tear or strain. So their key phrase with Paxton is health.

If he has that, then all signs point to an electric season in 2018, especially based on the progression he made last year with that 2.98 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 136 innings (including a 6-0 July when he allowed just six runs in 39 1/3 innings).

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

@TJCotterill

PROJECTING THE MARINERS OPENING DAY ROSTER

Looking at what the Mariners could roll out with on Opening Day for their 25-man roster. Here’s what we’re projecting so far:

OUTFIELDERS

No.

Name

B-T

Ht.

Wt.

Age

MLB Service

9

Dee Gordon (CF)

L-R

5-11

170

29

5 years

17

Mitch Haniger (RF)

R-R

6-2

215

27

1 year

51

Ichiro Suzuki (LF)

L-L

5-11

175

44

17 years

5

Guillermo Heredia (OF)

R-L

5-10

180

27

1 year

CATCHERS

No.

Name

B-T

Ht.

Wt.

Age

MLB Service

3

Mike Zunino

R-R

6-2

220

26

3 years

10

Mike Marjama

R-R

6-2

205

28

Rookie

INFIELDERS

No.

Name

B-T

Ht.

Wt.

Age

MLB Service

27

Ryon Healy (1B)

R-R

6-4

232

26

1 year

22

Robinson Cano (2B)

L-R

6-0

212

35

12 years

2

Jean Segura (SS)

R-R

5-10

205

28

5 years

15

Kyle Seager (3B)

L-R

6-0

210

30

6 years

7

Andrew Romine (UTL)

S-R

6-1

200

32

5 years

20

Daniel Vogelbach (1B)

L-R

6-0

250

25

Rookie

DESIGNATED HITTER

No.

Name

B-T

Ht.

Wt.

Age

MLB Service

23

Nelson Cruz

R-R

6-2

230

37

10 years

STARTING PITCHERS

No.

Name

B-T

Ht.

Wt.

Age

MLB Service

34

Felix Hernandez

R-R

6-3

225

31

12 years

65

James Paxton

L-L 6-4

235

29

3 years



8

Mike Leake

R-R

5-10

170

30

8 years

32

Marco Gonzales

L-L

6-1

195

22

1 year

RELIEF PITCHERS

No.

Name

B-T

Ht.

Wt.

Age

MLB Service

39

Edwin Diaz (CL)

R-R

6-3

165

24

1 year

12

Juan Nicasio

R-R

6-4

252

31

6 years

50

Nick Vincent

R-R

6-0

185

31

4 years

25

Marc Rzepczynski

L-L

6-2

220

32

7 years

53

Dan Altavilla

R-R

5-11

200

23

1 year

47

James Pazos

R-L

6-2

235

26

1 year

61

Casey Lawrence

R-R

6-2

170

30

1 year

N/A

Wade LeBlanc

L-L

6-3

205

24

4 years

COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: 5 DAYS

Here is the schedule for the rest of spring training up to the opening day, when the Mariners host the Indians at 7:10 p.m., March 29, at Safeco Field.

Saturday: vs. Chicago Cubs (6:40 p.m., Peoria)

Sunday: vs. San Diego Padres (12:10 p.m. at Peoria)

Monday: Off day

Tuesday: at Colorado Rockies (1:10 p.m. at Talking Stick)

Wednesday: Off day

March 29: Mariners open season against Indians at Safeco Field (7:10 p.m.)

April 5: Tacoma Rainiers open Triple-A season at Cheney Stadium (7:05 p.m.)

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