A new year brings new opportunities.
When Lloyd McClendon was named Mariners Manager in November, he noticed something familiar about his new team, something that bodes well for the club’s future. "I think this is a golden opportunity for me and this is a golden time for the Seattle Mariners," McClendon told MLB.com. "I think there's nothing but good things for this organization and I certainly think we're heading in the right direction.
“I know the last three or four years have been very tough and very disappointing, but I was asked a question earlier today: ‘Does this team remind you at all of the Pittsburgh Pirates?’ And I said no, it reminds me of the Detroit Tigers. And I mean that sincerely. This team reminds me so much of the 2006 Tigers and the potential that was with that team. I'm really excited and honored to be here. Hopefully we'll do great things here."
That Mariners team that McClendon spoke of got better with some help this offseason in the form of All-Stars, veterans and familiar faces. By now everyone knows that the Mariners signed All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano this off-season, but he wasn’t the only addition. The club made sure to add the bats of former All-Star Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, John Buck and familiar face Willie Bloomquist to the roster, a group that offers the club the flexibility of being able to play multiple positions while providing veteran leadership.
In Hart, the club acquired a two-time All-Star (2008 & 2010) who can play first base, the outfield and DH and brings with him 154 career home runs and 508 RBI in 945 games with the Brewers (2004-12). His 87 home runs between 2010-2012 ranked 6th-best in the National League and his .514 slugging percentage ranked 11th during that span. “I’m excited to be part of a good young club,” Hart said. “Any time you are looking for a club, you want to make sure it’s going in the right direction.”
The addition of these veteran players to the team have given the Mariners a fresh look, one that is well complemented by a slew of promising young players that includes Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino and Michael Saunders. One such player that joined the organization with plenty of promise is Logan Morrison who was a rising star with the Marlins before injuries derailed a career that began with a 23-homer campaign in his first full season as a 23-year-old in 2011. “For me, I’m so grateful to be here,” Morrison said. “I feel like I have a new lease on my baseball life. I’m very excited. I’m healthy. I’ve been able to hit and work out in the offseason for the first time in three years, and I will be able play in a spring training game for the first time in two years.”
Another player who is excited by the prospects of joining the Mariners is catcher John Buck who was signed to provide experience behind the plate as he mentors young Mike Zunino. Both will be tasked with managing a pitching staff that is led by established All-Stars Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but could also feature the talented young crop of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez. Buck is no stranger to working with a young pitching staff and is looking forward to helping guide them as they learn how to succeed at the Major League level. The experience that he brings with him from 10 Major League seasons with the Royals, Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets and Pirates will be invaluable to a young team that is taking the next step.
The back end of the bullpen will look slightly different this season as All-Star Fernando Rodney has been signed to close out games for Seattle. Over the last two seasons with the Rays, he has combined to record 85 saves with a 1.91 ERA in 144 relief appearances (76 in ’12, 68 in ’12). During this two-year stretch, he ranked 2nd amongst American League relievers in saves and ERA, while ranking 3rd in appearances. Now that Rodney is on board, the Mariners bullpen will feature three pitchers that have been closers at some point in their careers as Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar will help get the game to the ninth inning with a lead.
The future looks bright for the Mariners with a talented roster that could vault them into the playoff picture for years to come.
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