SECTION 331

Just a goth girl and her baseball team.


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Fifteen Days Til The Circus Comes Back to Town

This week has been busy. I have been getting up at 4 and finding myself asleep by 7.30 or 8 at night, which allows me just enough time to eat dinner and relax a bit, but not as much time as I would like to write (and forget trying to do it at work, I have been swamped). So I had missed being able to be timely on one of my favorite things the Mariners do! The commercials!

They were of course released earlier this week, and while there are only four this year as opposed to the usual five or six, on at least one, the Mariners just about outdid themselves. I haven’t loved one of their commercials as much as I love the new Fernando Rodney commercial since George Sherrill and JJ Putz debated baseball as a “thinking man’s game” back in 2007. In Where Does It Go, Rodney’s arrow puncturing a bouncy house at an Oakland A’s fan’s home even made Tom laugh genuinely, and where sports are concerned, that is pretty hard to do. Nelson Cruz’s assessment of Rodney’s arrow as “not real. It’s a air arrow!” as Logan Morrison refused to believe him cracked me up. I’m hoping we’ll see more of that A’s fan reaction from other teams this year than ever before.

Hawt Corner I found funny, but only for Kyle Seager’s reaction to Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen’s fanboying over the band. “Please don’t do that” sums it up. But Furbush and Wilhelmsen have more to offer in the 2+ minute long Hawt Corner video, and even more still in some of the outtakes. Bat Control pokes fun at selfie sticks and car flyers (that poor flyer guy caught a ball in the groin during the filming), and is also a good one, and Intensely Intense also made Tom laugh, when Felix was pictured “yelling” in pictures with children and puppies. And mimes. I believe that the Ms have been working with the same production company for years now, and they always make winners and losers, but I love the humor of Where Does It Go. I think it hit a chord with a lot of other fans too; it seems to be winning in the voting poll they set up at the site. Now, we just have to hope that the Ms do well enough that all four commercials play on ROOT during the games for the length of the season.

The team’s lineup is starting to shape up now, with more cuts having been made the other day. None of the cuts are surprising, though I am a little bummed that Jesus Montero couldn’t get things done at the plate the past few weeks. As Lloyd McClendon states in the linked article, it was always going to be hard to make this team for pretty much everyone not signed to an extended major league contract. And with Mike Zunino improving with the bat and Jesus Sucre being the seeming choice for backup, not to mention solid starters at first base, there just doesn’t seem to be much room for Montero here right now. You’ll have to forgive me, I am still seeing Montero as a catcher, though I know I shouldn’t. Hopefully he can get a lot of work in Tacoma and be a good fill in, should we have any injuries with Logan Morrison or any of the new guys Lloyd McClendon might want to platoon there. His newfound dedication is wonderful, and I hope it pays off for him.

Taijuan Walker seems to be a lock for the rotation now as things stand. As of the 19th, the battle between Walker and Roenis Elias is still going on, and will be until the very end of Spring Training, but Walker seems to be the guy we need. If that turns out to be true, Elias gives us a long reliever or a really great replacement for injured starters. Walker has been far more solid than Elias so far, which is a good sign for everyone involved. Either way, the team wins and Elias keeps a job here, so as a fan I have no complaints. It also feels like maybe the Tacoma Rainiers are going to be really really good this year, given the players we will have to shed off the 25-man. Both pitchers have options still, so regardless of what happens, neither of them will be going very far away from the team. The two of them will get about three more starts each this year before Opening Day on April 6th, so there is still time for the team to evaluate its needs, while making fans wonder what the heck is going on.

Mark Lowe is also fighting for a spot in the bullpen. I read a bit of an article on the bus the other morning about how Lowe, at now 31 years old, is clearly not the guy he used to be when he started in the Ms organization, becoming a member of the 2009 bullpen, and my favorite pitching staff ever. But the former gladiator-helmet-toting reliever had a lot of positive things to say about the players the team has ammassed this year. Lowe’s outlook (which is stated in an article I can’t link to here because the Times is doing that thing where they give you a prompt to pay for services, but I can see it on my phone) is great; he wants to play here for Seattle or Tacoma, and wants to play until he’s 40 if he can. He is aware that he is a long shot for the bullpen due to the younger, harder-throwing guys we already have and who have been here already working for it, but he isn’t defeated. He just wants to play. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t been a name on any list of cuts yet, so maybe there is a chance. I hope there is. He’s been sorely missed. I hope to see him at least a few times here in Seattle, if I can’t make it to Tacoma.

I am currently waiting to hear back from a friend on this evening’s activities, which will directly affect tomorrow’s activities, but if that falls through, I plan on attending the Lookout Landing viewing party down at Gastropod in SODO. It’s a potluck situation, and the owner, Cody Morris, will be making up some hot wings for the group. I am not quite sure what I will be making/bringing if I go, but if I don’t make it, everyone have fun. The Mariners just lost to the Chicago Cubs by two runs (was listening online), but tomorrow they go up against the Rangers. Game starts at 1pm.


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Safeco And Taijuan Walker, Getting Ready For Opening Day

This is my last day in Portland and after a not-great night of sleep (and “looking forward” to 3-4 hours’ worth of driving in what appears to be some pretty bad rain all up the I5 corridor). I feel like I need to make up for the other day’s distracted, tired, awkward post during the Brewers game, so here we are. I am waiting for coffee to be brewed, and will be making a pit stop at Voodoo Doughnuts to bring up north to friends before we leave the city.

The Mariners, meanwhile, are making all sorts of preparations for Opening Day. Sprucing up the place with some new dugout paint and chairs for the Diamond Club (maybe some day, I keep saying to myself), new interior decor for the Hit It Here Cafe (along with a revamped menu, which I am hoping they will post soon), and some new seatbacks for the bleachers (thanks, guys! My back will appreciate it!). They have also put new rubberized floors in both dugouts. I don’t even want to know what kind of hellish sunflower-and-gum-covered nightmare that might have been to remove and re-install, but good for them. At the very least, it will reduce the impact on guys’ spines from jumping around. The Ms have also given us some new signage out over the left field bleachers:

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 9.17.54 AMI may have to wear more gear to games this year. Last year it was mostly black, stuff I wear to work and every day in general. I will probably need to do a bit of shopping on Opening Day to find a shirt I can wear for 2015. I have never had a lucky shirt. I need a lucky shirt.

Bad news from camp over the last 24 hours; Chris Taylor just gave Brad Miller the starting shortstop job by breaking his wrist. Taylor got hit by a ball (unsure whether a pitch or errant throw or what at the moment) and broke a small wrist bone that will not require surgery, but will have him wearing a brace for the next 4-6 weeks or so pretty much around the clock. This also puts more pressure on Miller to succeed at the plate. He also needs to bring his OPS up, and while several projections have him doing just that (and his batting average following suit), I am still nervous. I keep forgetting how young he is, and the fact that his time in the majors has been much shorter than it sometimes feels. I am also keenly interested in everyone on this team having an .800 OPS or higher, which is terribly unrealistic of course, but a dream is a dream. I’d like to see Miller’s average come up to at least .250. That’s not too much to ask, right?

Taijuan Walker is making a very strong case for himself and a spot in the rotation. It sounds like he may be gaining the mental toughness needed for the job, and is no longer panicking when things get rough. He sounds confident in and analytical of himself, and to me that is a good sign. Even nearly getting badly injured wasn’t enough to shake him, he just picked up the ball and got the out and that was that. His direct competitor, Roenis Elias, goes on the hill today, but sadly I will be driving through this ridiculous rain trying to get home. I had originally planned to watch the game at my favorite pub near home, but this trip was kind of last minute family deal, which was why I tried to get the game in on Friday; otherwise I have to wait until this upcoming weekend to see more, and frankly, I just couldn’t. Summer cannot be here soon enough, and it starts when baseball does, not when the calendar says so! If they broadcast it on 710, I might be able to listen to some of it in the car. We’ll see.

I was going to address some of the new rule changes today, but I think I need to do a bit more reading on them to have a more rounded opinion on the changes. Particularly, the pitch clock. Maybe over the course of this week I’ll get some time to write something during lunch.

 

 


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Spring Training – Not Just For Seattle Anymore

Firing up the computer at the bottom of the 4th inning while I’m hanging out in Blitz Sports Bar’s Ladd’s Addition branch after lunch with my brother and Tom. It’s virtually empty here on a Friday afternoon, but the food is good, the beer selection is great, it is very open and inviting, and the staff was super cool and have now five of the 32 or so TV screens tuned into ROOT so I can watch today’s game against the Brewers at like three different angles. I am a pint and bits of a bloody mary into my lunch time at the moment, with two hours left on my laptop battery. Let’s see where this goes. I am so terribly overjoyed to be able to see some Seattle baseball, I don’t even care that I am being aurally assaulted by classic rock!

As I start this paragraph, the score is currently 5-0 in the Mariners’ favor. Mike Zunino stepped to the plate 0-1, and hit a single that scored both Seth Smith and Kyle Seager, a nice grounder that went right under the Brewers’ shortstop’s dive. It was just a single for Zunino, but it was a 2-RBI single, and a hit; if that is what Zunino is going to do this year, I will take it. It’s an encouraging thing to see from him, for sure. I haven’t heard yet how he is changing his approach at the plate, so I have nothing to go on, but a hit is a hit is a hit, and given the fact that I would probably refer to Zunino as a “pick to click” in 2015, that was fun to see.

Danny Farquhar entered the top of the 6th with a 7-run advantage, and was taken yard by Juan Centeno. Outside of that, Farquhar had a really good 6th inning, with many of his pitches either called strikes or swinging strikes. The bottom of the 6th was pretty painful for the Brewers’ who were plagued by terrible pitching and throwing errors. DJ Peterson provided a sacrifice fly that scored a run to end the 6th at 10-1. Peterson is doing well this spring so far. I don’t know if that means a slot at the Tacoma level for him or not this year, but it is certainly encouraging. I have only seen him play live once, up in Everett, so I don’t have much personal experience with him, but his name is certainly on people’s minds.

I got to see a little bit of Mayckol Guaipe’s pitching in the bottom of the 7th. I know Guaipe is not remotely close to making a major league team this year, but if I had to base an opinion on today’s performance I would have serious doubts. I’m sure there must be room for improvement. If I hadn’t eaten and drank right away and was not interspersing discussion with my brother and husband, I might be more inclined to rediscover GameDay as I sit here, but since none of those conditions exist, I referenced this article by Ryan Divish, written about two weeks ago, about Guaipe’s supposed indispensibility on our extended roster. I am hoping that this is just a bad outing and that he has more of a future, but today was not a good day for Guaipe. The inning started off well enough, with a few 90+ MPH pitches and an out on Parker Berberet, but went downhill with walks and hits and runs and someone needs to make it stop. Poor guy. I’m not judging him by this, certainly, but my first impression of Myckol Guaipe was not a good one. As always, hoping that changes. I haven’t read any in-depth analysis on Guaipe (which is likely apparent to anyone reading this), so I’ll just call it a bad day with two runs in one inning and leave it.

I probably need to take off from here now, given my family obligations and other things that are afoot as I am down in my hometown, and this may be the worst post I have ever written due to distractions of lunch and being in a bar without TV sound, but I am thankful, nonetheless, to have been able to watch most of this game. I have to leave to meet my mother and get ready for a dinner out with friends, and seeing Forrest Snow pitching and still in the Ms organization is awesome. The Mariners will win this game, and while it doesn’t really matter, it does kind of matter. A little bit.

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Shortstop Battle, A Struggling Catcher, and Taijuan Walker

I work during the day time and don’t have TV anyway (we got rid of the cable box for a few months to try and save money), so if ESPN isn’t broadcasting Spring Training games streaming, I simply can’t listen to them. I have been trying to keep up via the Seattle Times with the goings-on of the team, but there seems to be more news than ever coming out of camp, and it’s been difficult to keep up with everything.

Brad Miller and Chris Taylor are fighting an important duel at shortstop, where they platooned last year. I have not heard how either of them are doing thus far, but I figure either way the team comes out a winner. I didn’t have any issue with how that position was handled last year, and while I realize that there are offensive and defensive issues depending on who you point the finger at, between the two of these guys, we’re not doing too badly. I know they want someone who is The Guy, and it will be interesting to see who that turns out to be, but things still feel strong, because regardless of who The Guy is, we have another Guy ready to back him up if need be. I’m kind of attached to Brad Miller, and if he picks up where he left off at the end of last year, so much the better. But really, I have no horse in this race. Whomever is the best is who I’m hoping they’ll choose.

The other cause for concern is catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino was terrible offensively last year, which is saddening, since we finally have a guy – a young guy who might stick around a while – who is not Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Miguel Olivo, or anyone else to whom the words “passed” and/or “ball” might be attached. For as little as I have been writing lately, I remain steadfast in my love for and confidence in Zunino. I want him to show his bat who is boss and really take charge at the plate; but if we have a solid number 9 hitter at .200 who is all business defensively, I’ll take that too. In the time I have been a Mariners fan, we have not really had a catcher like Zunino. Even Kenji Johjima – while pretty solid in that position – was extremely reserved in comparison. Zunino is everywhere back there. He runs for pop-ups that the third or first basemen could easily get. He throws himself over dugout bars, and into the crowd if he has to; usually without results because the ball is too far into the stands to catch, but he does it anyway, like a boss. He blocks the plate aggressively and with absolutely no fear. And this from a guy who only a few years ago was virtually unknown to most Mariners fans. I also drafted him at the season ticket holder draft event a while back, because everyone else at my table had already chosen, and I couldn’t decide. Zunino seemed too obvious at the time, but pressure from a friend made me write him down. When he was picked, I felt like I had won something personally (which of course I had, in the form of free hot dogs and decreased pricing on beer that day), and I think it remains so to this day (credit to my friends, of course, but still). If Zunino can figure out his at bats, he’ll have everything; the adoration of the fans (moreso than now!), the faith of Felix Hernandez…really, what more does a catcher need? Zunino is apparently trying to change his approach, which, according to this article by Ryan Divish, seems more of a mental than a physical issue for him. This is good, though, because it’s far easier to change the way you think about the game than it is to make your body do something it either can’t or won’t do. Wishing Zunino the best of luck; if he manages to transform himself into a better hitter, it will be a great story this year.

Taijuan Walker came into Spring Training like a lion this March, throwing two scoreless innings and giving up only one hit while nabbing two strikeouts. I think that the team favors him over Roenis Elias, and I think I do too. Nothing against Elias at all, but clearly the organization wanted to see what Walker’s first dive into the pool was going to look like, and I have to think they loved what they saw. I, sadly, missed his start due to a work meeting, but was able to join the game online around the 4th inning or so. I hope he leaves March like a lion, too. I would love to see him as a steady in the rotation finally. I have heard a lot of praise  of his throwing via Twitter and radio, and am looking forward to seeing more of it for myself.

I am in Portland for a bit now, staying with my brother, who has TV. I have not yet been brave enough to check his cable set up to see if he gets ROOT, but hopefully I can watch a game tomorrow between the Ms and the Brewers. And if I can’t watch it here, I might actually see if there is a pub somewhere around for lunch and TV. I won’t be back in time for the game on Sunday unfortunately, so I want to try and get at least one in this week if at all possible. In the course of figuring out my work schedule for Opening Day, it came to my abrupt attention that it is now only 24 days away. TWENTY FOUR DAYS. I put the remainder of my payment for my tickets down tomorrow, my tickets for the home opener are already secured and ready to go. This is finally happening, and the next few weeks are going to be very exciting, I can almost not wait. But since I have to, I will. I will have to go into work for a few hours that Monday morning, since I have no backup for a part of my job that is specifically mine, but after that, it’s off to the stadium, where I will hopefully be able to live-Tweet and run into some friends for the early day game. I don’t have any creative way to end this post, so I’ll end it by stating the obvious, because I almost can’t believe it myself; Baseball is nearly back!


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Jesus Montero’s Serious Change

With the sunny, clear weather we are having in Seattle today, and a friend’s mention that the University of Washington baseball team has started playing games in earnest this weekend, not to mention the fact that I am currently sitting in a friend’s apartment looking out on the Space Needle with the sliding doors open to only a light chill, I feel baseball season more and more upon us. It is a month and change away, and I don’t know if I can wait that long. I was able to get some Opening Day tickets with yesterday’s paycheck, and whereas normally I opt for the upper deck tickets that are automatically attached to a 16/20-game plan when you ask for them, I decided to go in style in the lower deck, section 144. And aisle tickets as well! It’s like they know me! I can hardly wait. I want to start this year off on a high note, because I feel like it’s going to end on one. I also have designs on a Diamond Club experience this year, but given that I am planning visits to Coors Field and Chase Stadium, next year, I am not sure I can make that happen. I desperately need a raise for all this baseball.

A short while ago, I wrote about Jesus Montero’s second chance and how I was a little gunshy about it. Montero’s weight, his attitude, his injuries, and an unfortunate altercation last year with a Mariners crosschecker at an Aquasox game when he was rehabbing all made him not only a target of derision for fans in general, but also really caused a lot of us to wonder if he really wanted to play the game. Moreover, if he really wanted to play it here in Seattle. Maybe he was used to being in an organization like the Yankees, who are even right now struggling with the choice to keep Alex Rodriguez or what seems like an obvious option to dump him, and from which  Montero earned his 50 game suspension after making some other bad choices (I will hold off on any comments about Nelson Cruz, that’s not what this post is about). A lot of Montero’s career with this team seems to have been taking it for granted. Did he think we were pushovers? Did he think he could just ride it out being tossed back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle, and that was all his career would ever amount to? Did he want anything more from his career? Was he even legitimate major league material? I could go on and on with questions, because Jesus Montero seemed to be an endless black hole that demanded those questions and would never give up any answers, just sucking up criticism until the Mariners finally released him…

But that’s not what happened.

Jesus Montero changed. A lot. First, the most noticeable aspect of the changes he has made. His weight. Normally, I don’t like talking about athlete weight. There are athletes who don’t have what one might typically consider an atheletic build, and there are athletes who do, and both kinds are definitely professional and able to do what we know they can do. Weight is generally speaking not really much of an indicator of athletic skill. We all know Prince Fielder is a pudgy guy who can’t really run all that fast, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for with his bat; so I don’t judge baseball players on their weight, only whether or not they can play the game. Montero was pudgy, and was just not very good at baseball. This much we know. In fact, he was so bad at baseball, I never took any pictures of him so I don’t have any photos of my own, so I will use as a before photo, this picture taken last year, attached to a Ryan Divish article, wherein Jack Zduriencik basically says that all hope for Montero has been lost, all expectations forgotten. Then an after photo from another Divish article written a few days ago, which everyone should read if they haven’t already.

So, before and after…

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Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.06.48 PMTaken just about a year apart, the difference is obvious. Montero cleaned up his weight game hard. Like really hard. No more what I generally think of as “catcher’s thighs”, a smaller waist, a trimmer core. He looks less like a meatloaf and more like a baseball player. We were told last year before he came to camp – when the first photo was taken – that he had “lost weight”. I remember being pretty excited about it, then seeing photos and thinking he looked pretty much the same. Even with the lack of expectations on the Mariners’ part though, I figured they must either know something about him that the rest of us didn’t, or they simply couldn’t unload him on some unsuspecting team. 2014 went on, and the lack of expectation proved accurate. Jesus Montero just wasn’t a good baseball player.

But now? Now I have hope for Montero. The Divish article the second photo was taken from mentions a newfound humility for the catcher.  Apologies. Workouts. A loss of 40 pounds. A drive that the organization hasn’t seen before. An attitude that indicates he wants to be a Seattle Mariner for once and for all, and for real. And a daughter he wants to play for now. I want this to be his thing. I want to see a new and improved Jesus Montero that was what we hoped he might be when we sent Michael Pineda east. Pineda has not done well in New York, either. I want to win this trade, dammit! I loved Michael Pineda when he was here, and until he started having problems with the Yankees, I was completely bummed about the situation and everything it led to. But now it seems that Montero’s new resolve might be making it possible to turn his career around and be a worthwhile member of the Seattle Mariners.

Will Jesus Montero be an everyday catcher for the Mariners? Probably not. Mike Zunino has come up here and pretty much owned that position, and right now it looks like Montero might find himself at more of a utility spot with first base than anything else, with Jesus Sucre and a few others battling for secondary spots at catcher in camp right now. But perhaps now his time in Tacoma is either limited or up entirely, and he might find himself a home on our major league roster for once and for all, taking some shots with Logan Morrison in the right infield. My fingers are crossed. Let’s do this, Jesus! I believe that you can do the thing!


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Thursday Baseball Apathy. Maybe.

We are still not quite out of football season on sports radio, and I don’t have TV back just yet (we cancelled our cable to save money, and won’t be getting it back until later in March/early April), so I am still at a loss to really gather feelings on the upcoming season, and I feel like I should be way more excited than I am. Or maybe I really am excited, but I can’t communicate that just yet because I am a visual person and until I actually see some real life, current, non-rerun baseball I won’t even believe it’s happening. But yesterday was the first full squad workout, and I am seeing some pictures and short video show up on my Twitter and Instagram feeds (yes, I still have an Instagram account, and so do the Mariners), so maybe when next week rolls around, I’ll be all over this. Maybe. Nelson Cruz is clearly ready for the season to start, so maybe I should get it together and start being a bit more excited here. It is nearly March, after all.

Rickie Weeks lopped his dreadlocks off (it must feel amazing, I remember cutting mine, too) and come to camp ready to share my corner of the ballpark in left field with Dustin Ackley. It is planned that he will platoon (I’m using that word even if Lloyd McClendon won’t) with Ackley depending on righty/lefty pitcher needs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. Ackley’s migration to the outfield has worked really well for him, so hopefully Weeks can follow suit and still maintain his massive OPS. Since the days of Raul Ibanez, left field has felt nice and secure defensively with the players we have put out there, and if the team is confident in Weeks, I will be, too.

Robinson Cano is far more optimistic than I personally am willing to be about this season just yet. I do like the way the team is looking so far, and I am definitely looking forward to see who makes it where out of Spring Training, and yes, I remember last year’s success very, very well, but it just seems too good to be true right now, and I don’t want to go nuts. You know what I do like about Cano’s statements, though, regardless of whether or not I can buy into it wholesale this very minute? That attitude! And Robbie Cano has played for winners before; I trust him to at least know what a good team might look like, and he seems to be a fan of the changes and additions made over the offseason. I can seriously hardly wait for the noise in the stadium when these guys are announced at the home opener.

Hisashi Iwakuma is also feeling better too, and took a bullpen the other day, some video of which the Mariners posted on their Instagram site. He looks good in that short clip, pitching pretty effortlessly in the Arizona sun. I hope he doesn’t have any setbacks this year, and stays down in the zone, as Mike Zunino mentioned in the above link. I love Kuma’s pitching style, he is just a treat to watch and I am glad he is ours. Also at that link, Tom Wilhelmsen just got back from Florida, where he lost his arbitration hearing, but isn’t letting that sour him at all. Wilhelmsen is endearing that way; he’s laid back and kind of just rolls with the punches. I worry sometimes that he might not stick around forever, and I know that can happen, but I just love the fact that he comes off as more of a cartoon character than Serious Athlete. Serious Athletes are a dime a dozen, and Serious Athletes are boring; it takes someone special to be a guy who can throw a 95MPH fastball, pal around with fans with abandon, and then mix everyone a drink afterwards. Have I mentioned lately that I love our bullpen? Because I really love our bullpen, everyone!

I have to get back to work, but hope to be able to write again tomorrow. March is almost here. Spring Training proper is almost here. Baseball is almost here!


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Some Thoughts on Montero, Chavez, Gutierrez and Zunino

I have wanted to write for a while now, but with football reigning supreme in Seattle, it’s been kind of difficult to find the narrative of the Seattle Mariners. I figure the best thing to do would just be to air my big dumb opinions on various points of interest and articles published over the past few weeks. So here we go!

Jesus Montero is being given another chance. I really hate to be a downer when I’m not normally (not with any degree of seriousness, anyway), but I am weary and therefore wary of the rollercoaster that is our middling catcher. I certainly want to have more faith in him, and it sounds like the fact that he has met with the organization and constructed a plan for coming back happier and healthier – and has made his reporting weight with reporting still weeks away – is a good sign. I really do like the concept of Jesus Montero, and he seems to have a good degree of random power, but the attitude hasn’t been there and the hitting hasn’t been reliable. I would really love to see him make it here. I feel like he’s pretty good defensively, and hasn’t had any knee issues behind the plate, so I really just want him to get himself together and play. My fingers are crossed, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I did that last year, when everyone was saying that he had slimmed down and then when I finally saw a photo of him at spring training, he looked pretty much the same as he had before. I’m pulling for him, just being cautious about it. Given the catcher depth that the Mariners have piled up, sounds like they are, too.

Back in January, too, the Mariners signed Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez to minor league contracts. I like the Chavez signing; they clearly intend to keep him around for utility purposes, and I am glad he has decided to stay there. I have always been an Endy fan, he’s just a fun player to watch. But the Gutierrez offer both surprises and saddens me. Saddens because I love him so much and I just want him to be healthy and fast and in center field where he shines so well, and I know it can never be that way. I miss him in center. We got to see some fantastic defense while he was there, and while we have seen more defense from healthier players, I miss those high home-run-stopping jumps in the early evening sun. Surprised, though, because as the article linked above states, we clearly should not be expecting anything from him at a major league level at all. He seemed to do alright in the Venezuelan winter league, but that doesn’t help us in Seattle, and I have to wonder why the Ms have decided to keep him around. I’d love to see him back up here once or twice, but I’m not holding my breath. We have made improvements, and while the thoughts of what could have been with him will always echo on in my head, I know I have to separate the fan from the logic and what I know to be necessary. Whatever happens, I hope he has fun in Tacoma and stays healthy this year.

Speaking of Tacoma, I need to try and get down there this year more. I said that last year, but I felt really out of touch with the big picture last year, because I was completely missing out on the Rainiers. Maybe there will have to be some out of town Mariners games where I take the opportunity to go see what will likely be a fairly familiar roster.

Finally, I was listening to 710 ESPN Seattle this morning, and there was a lot of encouraging Mariners talk, sandwiched between football’s combine talk (don’t try and explain it to me, I could not care less if I put effort into it). There was some discussion of who to watch out for as the breakout/most improved player in 2015, and Mike Zunino’s name was tossed around. To finish up the Ryan Divish article linking party, some bits and bobs on Zunino and how he’s done so far with the Mariners. I am just flat out going to say on the record that I am an unapologetic Mike Zunino fan. I love everything about him. Do I wish he would hit more? Of course I do. But he is a great game caller, the pitchers seem to adore him, and he is a bit of a clubhouse personality that the team has been lacking for a while. I like upbeat players that aren’t afraid to take themselves a little less than seriously, and Zunino does this with style. Dave Cameron’s guy may be Dustin Ackley, but I think I’ll go with Zunino too. I feel like he is destined for something great this year.

Zunino and his catching and pitching friends will report to the Mariners Spring Training facility this Friday. Position players will follow early next week. I am ready for Spring Training to start. I am very very ready for meaningless baseball.

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