Felix Hernandez

Running down the rosters: Seattle Mariners

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The Mariners have finished in last place in the AL West six of the last eight years, and while their is a shining ray of hope on the way in 2013 in the form of the Astros, they’re going to have a tough time not making it seven of nine years this season.

Rotation
Felix Hernandez – R
Jason Vargas – L
Hisashi Iwakuma – R
Kevin Millwood – R
Hector Noesi – R

Bullpen
Brandon League – R
Shawn Kelley – R
George Sherrill – L
Hong-Chih Kuo – L
Tom Wilhelmsen – R
Shawn Camp – R
Cesar Jimenez – L

SP next in line: Blake Beavan (R), Charlie Furbush (L), Danny Hultzen (L), James Paxton (L)
RP next in line: Aaron Heilman (R), Josh Kinney (R), Chance Ruffin (R), Steve Delabar (R), Lucas Luetge (L)(Rule 5), Oliver Perez (L)

Faith in their ability to develop pitching (and turn reclamation projects into third and fourth starters) led to the Mariners’ trade of Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. They still have plenty of pitching depth, but the club will likely be without a legitimate No. 2 starter until someone from the Hultzen-Paxton-Taijuan Walker group emerges. In the meantime, the Mariners figure to get solid pitching, but that’s simply not good enough given the state of their offense.

Lineup
3B Chone Figgins – S
2B Dustin Ackley – L
RF Ichiro Suzuki – L
1B Justin Smoak – S
LF Mike Carp – L
DH Jesus Montero – R
C Miguel Olivo – R
CF Franklin Gutierrez – R
SS Brendan Ryan – R

Bench
C John Jaso – L
INF Carlos Guillen – S
INF Munenori Kawasaki – L
OF Casper Wells – R

Next in line: C Adam Moore (R), INF Luis Rodriguez (S), 3B Kyle Seager (L), 3B Alex Liddi (R), 3B-OF Vinnie Catricala (R), OF Trayvon Robinson (S), OF Michael Saunders (L), OF Carlos Peguero (L), OF Darren Ford (R), OF Mike Wilson (R)

That’s not the lineup I would use, but I’m not being consulted. In my mind, Seager’s left-handed bat is exactly what the right-handed-heavy bottom of the order needs. In going with Figgins at third base and in the leadoff spot, all of the lefties and switch-hitters are getting stacked in a row. The Mariners could bat Montero fourth or fifth instead of sixth — flip-flopping him and Smoak makes more sense than the current arrangement — but I don’t know that they’re going to want to put that much pressure on him initially.

While the starting nine appears set, the bench does have some question marks. The Mariners could carry Seager if they think they’d have enough playing time available for him. It’ll probably come down to him and Guillen for one spot and to Kawasaki and Rodriguez for the other. Seager has some experience at shortstop, but the Mariners will likely want to carry a true backup middle infielder. Wells is the heavy favorite to serve as the backup outfielder. He should start over Carp in left field against lefties.

The offense will almost certainly be improved this year, probably by a substantial margin, but there’s just so much ground to make up. The Mariners scored 556 runs last year. The other 13 AL teams averaged 735 runs. Montero’s arrival, full seasons from Ackley and Carp and a rebound from Ichiro will all help, but it’s unlikely to really start coming together for the Mariners before 2013.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.