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2013 Preview: Seattle Mariners

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Seattle Mariners.

The Big Question: Are the Mariners finally on the right track?

Absolutely. After some bad high payroll teams a few years ago and then some trades which didn’t exactly inspire, it does now seem like the Mariners have a plan going forward.

They locked up Felix Hernandez. There is a young core which, admittedly, could go either way right now, but it is still a young core with upside: Hernandez, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager. Tons of good arms on the farm including  Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, which will either contribute in Seattle or serve as the basis for deals for offense at some point over the next couple of years.

There is a bright future in Seattle based on a lot of solid young players. It’s just not the kind of future likely to arrive earlier than expected due to none of them really being off-the-charts impact-type players. But unlike we’ve seen in the past, there are things to be hopeful for with the Mariners now. And that’s good, yes?

What else is going on?

  • Has anyone gotten rich cornering the market on designated hitters? Because boy howdy do the Mariners have a lot of DH types:  Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Jesus Montero and Jason Bay are all gonna break camp with this team. I mean, sure, those are all famous-to-sorta-famous baseball players, but how, exactly, is this supposed to work?
  • Moving the fences in at Safeco Field — a home run to left center is now 17 feet closer than it was before — will be worth watching. It may bother the pitchers a bit, but one wonders if part of the reason for this is to get Seattle out of that rut where they can’t sign any power hitting free agents thanks to the perception that their offense will up and die. If Mike Morse suddenly goes off for 35 homers, does that not send a signal to others that Seattle — in a state with no state income tax — may be a nice place to land?
  • The Mariners have also cornered the market on Saunderses. Michael and Joe Saunders, that is. Michael flashed some pop last year and could be something of a breakout candidate. He stole 21 bases too. One of those players who, because he plays in Seattle, people rarely notice. But he’s worth watching. Joe Saunders turned in his best season in years in 2012, based on a hot final couple of months. I wouldn’t bet on him carrying it all over or anything, but given all the arms the Mariners have hanging around he could be an attractive trade chit at the break if he pitches well.
  • Call it a petty thing or even slam on the M’s, but there has to be some moral victory involved in not finishing in last place this year, right? I mean, no matter what happens, they’ll stay out of the cellar by virtue of the Houston Astros, yes?

So how are they gonna do?

Better. But still not enough juice to pass up Oakland, Texas or Anaheim. Fourth place, AL West. But Fourth place with a bullet.

Shelby Miller will return to D-Backs’ rotation on Wednesday

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 06:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on July 6, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Shelby Miller will return to the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation on Wednesday to start against the Giants at AT&T Field.

Miller had an abysmal first half of the season, which included a stint on the disabled list with a finger injury caused by his follow-through. In 14 starts with the D-Backs this season, Miller put up a 7.14 ERA with a 50/34 K/BB ratio in 69 1/3 innings.

Miller was demoted to Triple-A Reno and made his first start shortly after the All-Star break. In eight starts in the minors, Miller compiled a much-improved 3.91 ERA with a 55/10 K/BB ratio in 50 2/3 innings.

The Diamondbacks acquired Miller along with minor leaguer Gabe Speier from the Braves this past winter in a heavily-criticized trade that sent Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson to Atlanta.

Video: Keith Hernandez has fun with the telestrator

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17:  Former Major League Baseball first baseman Keith Hernandez gets readt to throw out the first pitch prior to game one of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets at Citi Field on October 17, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Mets’ broadcast trio of Gary Cohen and former major leaguers Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez ranked third out of 30 teams in FanGraphs’ 2016 Broadcaster Rankings for good reason. Beyond great play-by-play calling and in-game analysis, the three clearly have fun doing their jobs. It’s what makes bad broadcasts stick out like a sore thumb and makes other broadcasts, like the Mets’, a daily must-watch.

During the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game between the Mets and Marlins, Hernandez decided to test out a new telestrator installed in the SNY broadcast booth. First, he drew a circle over Darling’s head, then replaced it with a spotshadow circle. Before putting his toy away, Hernandez showed off the “cone of silence,” which he quickly renamed the “Gary Cohen of silence.”

10/10, would watch again.