Here are bios for the Mariners' Opening Day 28-man roster and key contributors. The Mariners open the 2012 MLB season Wednesday at 3:10 a.m. against the Oakland A's in Tokyo.
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Personal: Was 17th pick out of Irving High School by Texas in 2007. Seattle traded for him in 2010, and was Class AAA pitcher of the year last season. Married to wife, Allison, whom he dated in high school. The couple lives on a 330-acre ranch in Eastland, Texas.
Role with Mariners: No. 3 starter in rotation.
Upside: Would the Mariners take 30 starts, 180 innings and 10 wins with a mid 3s ERA? In a heartbeat they would, because that would be mean that Beavan had a strong first full season in the majors and provided return on the Cliff Lee trade.
Downside: Think Clint Nageotte. Or Travis Blackley. Or any other starting pitching prospect who couldn't cut the mustard at the major league level, and bounced back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma.
Personal: Was 851st pick out of Volunteer State Community College by San Diego in 2003. By 2010, he was out of baseball and teaching in Kentucky. Signed as free agent with Seattle last season. Made his major league debut Sept. 11. Married to wife, Jamie.
Role with Mariners: Reliever, likely in middle relief.
Upside: What kind of expectations can you have for a guy who did not even pitch in 2010? If he gets through the season healthy and with a role in the majors, it's been a huge success.
Downside: It would be unfortunate for Delabar if his own fair tale did not include establishing himself as a major-league pitcher.
Personal: Was 151st pick out of Louisiana State by Detroit in 2007. Missed all of 2008 after having Tommy John surgery. Made his major league debut for the Tigers last May before Seattle traded for him two months later.
Role with Mariners: Reliever, possibly earning spot starts.
Upside: If Furbush establishes himself as a bonafide major-leaguer, that would be good considering he struggled in 10 starts after coming over from Detroit. And if he earns a more prominent role in the pen or a few starts, so much the better.
Downside: Those struggles in Seattle – 6.62 ERA in 53 innings – are more indicative of his pitching than what he did early in the season as a reliever with the Tigers (3.62 ERA in 32 innings).
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent by Seattle out of Venezuela in 2002. Made his major league debut in 2005 as a 19-year-old, becoming the youngest pitcher since Jose Rijo in 1984. Won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award. Married to wife, Sandra.
Role with Mariners: Workhorse ace starter in rotation.
Upside: The pitching Triple Crown, which is leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Only a few can even dream of such things, and Felix is one of those guys. If he does that, he'll be a slam dunk – pardon the basketball metaphor – for Cy Young No. 2.
Downside: That ERA stays in the mid-3s or worse, the win-loss record hovers below .500 and Felix suddenly begins to wonder what life outside of Seattle would be like. Let's not go there.
Personal: Nicknamed "Kuma," which is Japanese for "bear" – he was a force in the NPB. For Rakuten, he was the Pacific League MVP in 2008 (21-4, 1.87 ERA). Could not work out a MLB contract with Oakland in 2010, and signed with the M's in January.
Role with Mariners: A career starter in Japan who will begin in long relief.
Upside: Best case scenario is that Iwakuma rounds into form while pitching out of the pen, earns a starting job and then establishes himself as a solid starter before the end of the season.
Downside: Iwakuma, who lost the fifth starter's job to Kevin Millwood, can't make the adjustment to being a reliever and struggles in that role.
Personal: Was 405th pick out of Austin Peay by Seattle in 2007. Twice, he has had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow (2003, 2010). Did not allow a run in 10 appearances in his return last September. Married to wife, Kelsey. Has a son, Parker.
Role with Mariners: Short-inning power arm in bullpen.
Upside: If Kelley shows the form that he displayed last September, the Mariners will be happy to have a strikeout-per-inning reliever to anchor the eighth and someone to nail down a few saves if needed.
Downside: The stress of being a regular performer is too much for his twice rebuilt elbow and he spends more time on the DL than the mound.
Personal: Was 59th pick out of St. Louis High School (Hi.) by Toronto in 2001. Seattle traded for him in 2009, and last season was third in the AL with 37 saves. Played in the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix. Married to wife, Sasha. Has three daughters.
Role with Mariners: Closer.
Upside: Elite closer who threatens the Mariners team record of 45 saves in a season (Kazuhiro Sasaki, 2001).
Downside: Last year's performance was an aberration and League can't nail down the ninth inning, forcing the team to turn to one of its young and unproven relievers to close.
Personal: Was 638th pick out of Rice University by Milwaukee in 2008. Seattle drafted him in third round of Rule 5 draft in December. In four seasons in the minor leagues, he has been both a starting pitcher and reliever.
Role with Mariners: If he sticks, a situational left-handed reliever.
Upside: Look no further than teammate George Sherrill for what Leutge should hope to be – a guy who gets out lefties late in the game.
Downside: It turns out that Luetge, who has never pitched in the majors or Class AAA, can't handle the bigs and must be offered back to the Brewers.
Personal: Was 320th pick out of Bessemer City High (N.C.) by Atlanta in 1993. Has played 15 major-league seasons, and is No. 5 among active pitchers in innings (2,559.1), strikeouts (1,976) and starts (415). Pitched a no-hitter with Philadelphia in 2003. Signed as a minor-league free agent by Seattle in January. Has two sons.
Role with Mariners: Surprise No. 5 starter in rotation.
Upside: If he pitched so well that a contending team would want him to bolster their rotation come the trade deadline, the Mariners would gladly flip him for a prospect or two.
Downside: The brutal truth that knowing how to pitch in the majors is much different than pitching in the majors becomes evident and Millwood gets bounced from the rotation before the kids are done with school.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the New York Yankees out of the Dominican Rupublic in 2004. Went 30-18 with a career 2.98 ERA in the minors before earning a win in relief in his MLB debut last May. Seattle traded for him in late January.
Role with Mariners: No. 4 starter in rotation.
Upside: If Noesi, who spent the bulk of his time in the minors as a starter, shows similar ability to those numbers – a strikeout per inning, sub-3 ERA – he could slot as solid 2-3 starter.
Downside: Similar to Blake Beavan's in that he gets familiar with the I-5 corridor between Seattle and Tacoma.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Nicaragua by Seattle in 2007. Was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year in 2009. Listed as the Mariners' No. 13 prospect by Baseball America last year.
Role with Mariners: Another starting candidate who likely begins 2012 in Tacoma or in the bullpen with the Mariners.
Upside: If Ramirez can throw strikes in the majors as effectively as he has in the majors, creating a role for himself with the team as reliever/spot starter.
Downside: Those strikes are sent back into play a lot harder than they got to the plate, forcing Ramirez to spend more time in Class AAA learning to avoid bats.
Personal: Signed as non-drafted free agent by Seattle out of Austin Peay in 2003. Has 400 career games in the majors – 195 with the M's (2004-07) – limiting left-handed hitters to .180 average. Traded to Baltimore in 2008, and has also played for Atlanta and the Los Angeles Dodgers before resigning with Seattle in December.
Role with Mariners: Most-trusted situational left-hander in bullpen.
Upside: He continues to get lefties out an amazing rate and retires the occasional right-hander, too.
Downside: Time catches up to Sherrill's left arm, and major-league hitters – lefties and righties – let everyone know about it.
Personal: Was 68th pick out of Long Beach State by Miami in 2004. Seattle traded for him with the New York Mets in 2008. Set highs in innings pitched (201.0) and strikeouts (131) last season, and had three complete game shutouts. Married to wife, Shelley. Has two children.
Role with Mariners: No. 2 starter in rotation.
Upside: In addition to rolling out another 30 starts and 200 innings pitched, Vargas shaves a run off his ERA, wins 15 games and makes for a formidable duo with Felix Hernandez atop the rotation.
Downside: That ERA, that rose a half a run from 2010 to 2011, keeps on rising and the hits – which were more than one per inning last year – keep on falling in, forcing the Mariners to reevaluate their future plans for the rotation.
Personal: Was 199th pick out of Tucson (Ariz.) High School by Milwaukee in 2002. Ended up on the Brewers' suspended list (2004-08) for marijuana use. Signed as a minor-league free agent by Seattle in 2010, and made his MLB debut last April against Oakland. Married to wife, Cassie.
Role with Mariners: Another in line of power arms in relief.
Upside: He continues to excel in relief, giving the Mariners options in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning.
Downside: His walks get out of hand, causing manager Eric Wedge to lose faith in him in close situations.
Personal: Was second overall pick out of North Carolina by Seattle in 2009. Left the Tar Heels as top hitter in school history (.412 average). Made MLB debut June 17, 2011 with hit in first at-bat. Finished sixth in AL Rookie of Year voting. Married to wife, Justine. Role with Mariners: Starting second baseman, and No. 2 hitter in lineup.
Upside: As a rookie last season, Ackley showed extra-base power and an ability to get on base, which is exactly what the Mariners were hoping for when they drafted him. If he continues to develop, the Mariners have the makings of a young Chase Utley-type hitter, which would go a long way to fixing their longstanding offensive problems.
Downside: Two words no Mariners fans want to hear come to mind – sophomore slump. It could happen and it would not be a fatal blow to Ackley's career, but it could put a damper on the season.
Personal: Was 254th pick out of Lakewood High (Calif.) by the New York Mets in 2004. Seattle traded for him in 2008. Made his MLB debut as a pinch hitter in June of 2009. His .466 slugging percentage was second among league rookies last season. Was AL rookie of the month for August. Role with Mariners: Starting left-fielder, and premium RBI producer as a middle of the order hitter.
Upside: The Mike Carp that played in Tacoma last year was an offensive force (21 homers in just 251 at-bats, .343 average and .649 slugging percentage). The M's would love that, but would be tickled teal if he hit 20 homers and drove in 85 RBI and posted a .270 average in his first full season in the majors.
Downside: Carp's contact rate was not impressive, as he struck out once in every 3.86 at-bats with the Mariners. Continuing to strike out at that rate will kill his average and run-produing capabilities, which could cost him his starting job.
Personal: Was 132nd pick out of Brandon High (Fla.) by Colorado in 1997. The Los Angeles Angels traded for him in 2001 where he played 35 postseason games, and made the 2009 AL All-Star team. Seattle signed him as a free agent in 2009. Limited to 81 games last season (hip flexor). Role with Mariners: Replaces Ichiro as leadoff hitter, and starting third baseman and occasional outfielder.
Upside: Comeback player of the year? Only if you are drinking the Kool-Aid that a return to the lead off spot will also bring a return to Figgins' productive days with the Angels when he annually stole 40 bases, scored 100 runs and got on-base at a .350 clip while leading the league in smiles. Anything close to that and Jack Zduriencik will not only recoup some of his investment, but also have gained a very valuable chip come the trading deadline.
Downside: Reality time. If Figgins flops and mopes, he'll likely be headed out of town, another free agent failure in Seattle. Another scenario: Figgins isn't horrible but not great, either, forcing the team to decide if it's worth keeping him as the leadoff hitter or dropping him in the order and risk angering him again.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000. Cleveland traded for him in 2004. Seattle traded for him in 2008. Earned his only AL Gold Glove in 2010 when he did not make an error in 415 chances. Played in only 92 games last season (left oblique). Role with Mariners: Steady defensive presence in center field, if he can stay healthy.
Upside: The ceiling, so far, is what Mariners fans saw back in 2009 – 18 homers, 70 RBI, .283 average and highlight-reel defense over the course of 153 games. The torn pec will make it impossible to get that kind of playing time in 2012, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
Downside: This could be the last chance Gutierrez has in Seattle to be a starter, especially if he struggles at the plate like he did last year and one of the other outfielders show enough at the plate and with the glove to hold down the job.
Personal: Was 338th pick out of Southwestern College (Calif.) by Tampa Bay in 2003. Was a minor league all-star in each of his five seasons before making him MLB debut in 2008. Last season, 65 of his 67 starts at catcher were against right-handed pitchers. Seattle traded for him in November. Role with Mariners: Reserve catcher who will also play first base.
Upside: He's an on-base guy and not a power-guy, as his career percentages reflect (.340 on-base, .365 slugging percentage). If the lefty-swinger can do that when he plays, he will be valuable because Miguel Olivo doesn't get on-base (.253 in 2012) nor hit righties particularly well (.220 in 2012).
Downside: Ever hear of a third wheel? That could be Jaso's lot with the Mariners if there aren't any at-bats to go around with Olivo handling the bulk of the time behind the plate and Jesus Montero getting the rest of it.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Japan by Seattle in January. Was an eight-time NPB All-Star in Japan, and led Fukoka to the Japan Series championship last season. Role with Mariners: Backup infielder, primarily at shortstop.
Upside: Kawasaki idolizes Ichiro, and his game is sort of Ichiro-lite. If he can slap the ball around enough to hit .280, steal of few bases and play solid defense, he'll be a great reserve and insurance should Brendan Ryan get injured or fail to hit more than .240.
Downside: This isn't Japan, and if Kawasaki gets the bat knocked out of his hands, he won't add much to the Mariners. A comparison is Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who signed with the Twins last year and hit .226 with only five extra base hits in 221 at-bats and was recently sent to the minors.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Italy by Seattle in 2005. Is the first graduate of of MLB's International European Academy to reach the major leagues. Made his MLB debut Sept. 7. His home run Sept. 19 was the first by an Italian-born player since 1961. Role with Mariners: Likely going to spend much of the season at Class AAA in Tacoma at third base.
Upside: Power-hitting third basemen, one capable of hitting 25+ homers don't come along very often in Seattle, but there are some that believe Liddi has that type of potential. He could get his chance at the job this year, possibly as soon as August should he tear it up in Tacoma and others at the big league level fail.
Downside: Like a lot of young power-hitters, Liddi swings and misses – a lot. Although he hit 30 homers for the Rainiers in 2011, he whiffed 170 times which is a big reason he hit just .259 in Tacoma. If he can't make better and more consistent contact, Liddi could be doomed to lead the life of a Four-A hitter – one too good for Class AAA, but not good enough for the majors.
Age: 22 Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 235 B-T: R-R
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela by the New York Yankees in 2006. Was rated No. 4 in 2010 and No. 3 in 2011 as a prospect by Baseball America. Made his MLB debut Sept. 1 against Boston. Seattle traded for him in January, and is the team's No. 1 prospect. Role with Mariners: Impact bat as designated hitter who is also expected to catch 40-50 games.
Upside: If you are going to dream, dream big: 30 homers, 100 RBI, .300 average and Gold Glove defense behind the plate; you know, a young Johnny Bench. Too much, too soon? How about 20 homers, 85 RBI, .280 and not completely being worthless while wearing a chest protector.
Downside: While most are worried about Montero's defense, it's not a given he'll be the hitter everyone hopes. If he fails to handle big league pitching, let along dominate it in 2012, he might require more seasoning in Tacoma. And if he can't catch, the Mariners must decide if they're OK with a young DH or if Montero needs to learn another position, like first base, ASAP.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic by Oakland in 1996. Has been with seven MLB organizations, including becoming the 30th player to play two separate stints with Seattle (2005, 2011). Last season, he became the first catcher to lead M's in home runs (19) and RBI (62). Married to wife, Gloria. Has six children. Role with Mariners: Starting catcher, and steady run producer. Expects to hit No. 7 in batting order.
Upside: Olivo has 20-homer power, which is good and attainable. What would be great would be an up tick in batting average and on-base percentage, say to the .270 average / .320 on-base range, which would equal his career high.
Downside: Olivo, at age 33, does not have an epiphany about hitting and instead makes even less contact – he struck out 27.6 percent of the time in 2011 – than he has over the course of his career. A sub-.200 average would likely cut into his playing time – hello, Mr. Jaso! – and likely mark the end to his second stint with the team.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic by Seattle in 2005. Has hit 67 home runs the past three seasons in the minors. Made his MLB debut April 19 as a defensive replacement – and ended up making 43 starts in the outfield. Role with Mariners: Probably destined to spend majority of season at Class AAA Tacoma in left field.
Upside: Oh can Peguero hit a ball far. If he could harness that powerful swing to make more contact, he could hit 20+ homers in the majors, a skill the Mariners could use.
Downside: Remember Wladimir Balentien? If you don't, here's what you need to know: Balentien was a Mariners outfield prospect who could hit long homers, but struck out too much. He didn't pan out, and Peguero runs the risk of fading into the memories of Mariners fans ala Balentien if he can't make more contact.
Personal: Was 215th pick out of Lewis and Clark State College (Idaho) by St. Louis in 2003. Made his MLB debut in 2007. Seattle traded for him in 2010. Led all shortstops last seasons in runs saved at shortstop (18). Missed the final two weeks because of back spasms. Lives in Los Angeles. Role with Mariners: Starting shortstop and showman with the glove. Anything else offensively is a bonus.
Upside: An average of .270 or above would be tremendous. Throw in 20 steals and good health, and the Mariners would feel pretty good about Ryan's season.
Downside: Injuries and ineffectiveness at the plate would be a killer to Ryan's tenure in Seattle, especially with Munenori Kawasaki around and other shortstop prospects in the system looking for an opportunity.
Personal: Was 333rd pick out of Lambrick Park (B.C.) by Seattle in 2004. Made MLB debut in 2009, and played in 46 games that season. Started 47 games last season. Played for Team Canada in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Married to wife, Jessica. Role with Mariners: With Franklin Gutierrez out, starts the season in center field. Could end up sticking as No. 4 outfielder.
Upside: Power and speed and decent defense are obvious traits. Getting on base, not so much. If Saunders does that – say hit .270 and draw enough walks to push his on-base percentage north of .330 – he could earn regular playing time, and possibly a starting job.
Downside: Should Saunders continue to do what he has done in his previous 204 games with the Mariners – hit .196 with a .263 on-base percentage – he will likely have to find another organization.
Personal: Was 82nd pick out of North Carolina by Seattle in 2009. Led all M's minor leaguers in 2010 in hits (192) and runs scored (126). Made MLB debut July 7, and appeared in 53 games at three infield positions – 42 at third base. Married to wife, Julie. Role with Mariners: Backup third baseman who can be super utility player.
Upside: He hits his way into the starting lineup, showing that line-drive capability that makes him a Dustin Ackley-esque hitter.
Downside: He doesn't hit when he gets a chance to play and finds himself back in Tacoma, waiting for another opportunity.
Personal: Was 11th pick out of South Carolina by Texas in 2008. Made MLB debut in April of 2010, and three months later, Seattle traded for him. Played in a career-high 123 games for the M's last season, and shared team lead for extra base hits (39). Married to wife, Kristin. Role with Mariners: Starting first baseman and clean-up hitter.
Upside: A world in which a Mariners first baseman hits 30 homers, drives in 100 runs and displays true middle-of-the-order ability is what everyone wants for Smoak. Even a little less would be OK as long as he shows he's going to a player to be reckoned with.
Downside: Should Smoak struggle to hit consistently it would raise the question if he really is the long-term answer at first base. If that answer is no, then Smoak is probably going to have to go to the minors for more work, or begin his career as an ex-Mariner.
Personal: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Japan by Seattle in 2000. The nine-time AL All-Star had 10 consecutive seasons of 200 or more hits (2001-2010). He is also a 10-time Gold Glove winner in right field. Last season, his streak of playing in 255 consecutive games came to an end in June. Married to wife, Yumiko. Role with Mariners: No longer a leadoff hitter, he will not be No. 3 batter. Fixture in right field.
Upside: Sparked by a sub-standard year and a move in the lineup, Ichiro bounces back with a .300 average with 15 homers and 80 RBI, becoming a run producer who is still capable of stealing 20 bases a year while playing passable defense. This would likely cause the Mariners to consider re-upping him instead of letting the free-agent-to-be walk away from the only MLB team he's ever played with.
Downside: He scuffles at the plate. He shows less range in the field, and more snark in interviews, if he gives them at all. The Mariners are then forced to consider benching him, cutting him or trying to find a taker for an aging slap hitter; marking another sad ending to a Mariners legend.
Personal: Was 420th pick out of Towson State by Detroit in 2005. Made his MLB debut in May of 2010. Seattle traded for him last season. Homered in four consecutive game for the M's in August, and his seven outfield assists led all rookies. Did not play the final two weeks because of vertigo-like symptons. Role with Mariners: Backup outfielder, but can play infield in a pinch.
Upside: Shows enough power and production for a full-time job and makes everyone forget Doug Fister.
Downside: Is playing for the lovely folks in Tacoma really a downside? It is when you consider the city does not have a major league team.