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.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.