Monday, April 5, 2010

MARINERS: Opening Night against Oakland brings concerns

Opening day has finally reached us, and tonight the Mariners kick off the 2010 season in Oakland. Much has been said about the Mariners this offseason, given the extremity of the moves and changes the front office has made for the squad.

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We lost Adrian Beltre and Russell Branyan; we gained Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. We essentially gave up Brandon Morrow, struggling to find a role on this roster, for an injury-prone, Cy Young lefty in Cliff Lee.

We gave up Carlos Silva, one of the biggest busts in Mariners history, only to receive a potential all-star albeit dramatic clean-up hitter in Milton Bradley.

We locked up Felix Hernandez for five more years, and eventual Gold-Glover Franklin Gutierrez for four.

So why are so many fans putting up the hazard flags on this M’s team already?

For starters, Cliff Lee could not have had a worse spring. He had command issues in almost every appearance preceding a fourth-inning ejection leading him to a 5-game suspension to begin the season. Yesterday, Lee was placed on the 15-day DL for a lingering muscle strain in his right abdomen. Speculators are anticipating that Lee won’t be 100% until the end of April at best.

Milton Bradley couldn’t help himself by agreeing to an interview with ESPN explaining the struggles and tribulations he had while playing with the Cubs in 2009. He essentially blamed Chicago fans and media members for his futility, stating that he was run out of town.

Thankfully, this fiasco occurred during spring training and not at Safeco during the regular season. In order to have a successful year, the Mariners need to keep Bradley’s temper under control and do all they can to keep him from running his mouth.

Starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith showed signs of sensation in a number of starts, whereas an inexperienced Doug Fister showed signs of futility. The Mariners need all the help they can get from their rotation while Lee is inactive and healing for the next 2-4 weeks. Sadly, the beginning of the season and getting off to a strong start is crucial for any Major League team.

The M’s send ace Felix Hernandez out on the mound tonight, opposite of Ben Sheets for the Athletics. Oakland has struggled in recent years, finishing third and fourth in the division over the last two seasons respectively, and made minute improvements over the offseason to suggest finishing otherwise this year.

First pitch is scheduled tonight for 7:05pm on FSN. Celebrate tonight with friends and family, for this could be the beginning of an amazing summer with the best team the Mariners have put on the field in years.

Reach Jacob Kehle at