Catastrophe: Mariners lose opener and possibly Felix.

Felix Opening day 2017

It’s hard enough to lose, but it’s tougher still to lose your ace. Mariner Nation will have its eyes fixed on reports regarding Felix Hernandez’s apparent groin injury during the team’s 3–0 loss to the Astros in the season opener.  The King clearly injured himself covering a close play at first on a groundout by Josh Reddick.  Hernandez hit the bag hard and came off the play limping. He remained in the game through the fifth inning, retiring all three Astros batters, but was removed for Nick Vincent in the sixth.

Note: The Mariners announced last night it was unlikely Felix would have to miss his next start. 

The Mariners began the game with promise, with Jean Segura singling to lead off the first inning, but his run died at second.  The M’s were not so lucky when George Springer led off the Astros half of the inning with a home run.  Felix pitched well through the fifth, allowing only another solo homer to Carlos Correa.  It was a 449 foot bomb that exited Minute Maid Park. Mariners down 2-0. Scoring for the game concluded when Nick Vincent relieved Felix in the sixth.  He allowed Alex Bregman to walk in a 12-pitch at-bat.  Jose Altuve followed with a single, driving Bregman to third, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Correa.

Unfortunately, the M’s had no such luck against Houston starter Dallas Keuchel. Segura’s hit was one of only three the M’s amassed against Astros pitching. Segura followed up with an infield hit in the eighth.  Robinson Cano singled in the fourth inning.

The Mariners had scoring opportunities when they loaded the bases in fourth, but Leonys Martin grounded out to end the inning. In the eighth, Segura got his second hit and he was followed by Mitch Haniger who walked. A passed ball moved the runners up to 2nd and 3rd, but Cano lined out to right fielder George Springer.

Not a lot to cheer in this game.  Keuchel looks to have regained his 2015 Cy Award winning form.  The M’s were mostly baffled by his assortment of high 80’s fastballs, a great changeup and breaking pitches that were very well located.

if there were any bright spots for the Mariners, it was the performance of left-hander James Pazos and right hander Casey Fien.  They retired all seven of the Houston batters they faced.

But it doesn’t diminish the fact the M’s lost their opening game of the season, and may be losing their ace and spiritual leader to the disabled list.  This is not the opener anyone envisioned.

 

Are the 2017 Mariners three games better than the 2016 version?

Mariners-40th

One of the worst seasons of my Mariners fandom was 2015.  Mind you I’ve followed this team closely since their first season forty years ago.  M’s success on the field has been very cyclical.  2009 was surprisingly good followed by five years in the wilderness.  The Mariners got to within one game of the playoffs in 2014, were proclaimed AL champs in the 2015 preseason and were absolutely vile.  Last year, another so close, but so far away year, and for 2017 after significant re-tooling the Mariners once again have some national notice. Will they break their 15 year absence from the playoffs or will it be one more year of disappointment?

These are the three things I’m looking at moving ahead that give me guarded optimism the Mariners will compete for a playoff spot, as well three areas that leave me sanguine about the possibilities.

More ways to score

In past years, even at times in 2016 when the Mariners scored more runs than they had since 2007, the Mariners would have those games when facing good pitching or just having an off day, they would wait around for a hot bat, a three run homer to put a digit on the scoreboard.  This year should be different, for two reasons.

Remember last year’s control-the-zone campaign?  Well, it worked.  The Mariners went from 22nd in the majors and a .311 OBP in 2015 to ninth and a .326 OBP in 2016.  Their spring results were even more remarkable with a .357 OBP, fourth among major league teams.  While I would never make too much of spring statistics, it’s also impossible to ignore the organization- wide emphasis on patience at the plate and hitting what’s in the ‘zone.  It will result in more baserunners, better pitches to hit and more runs scored.

Speed kills, and for the first time in decades the Mariners have plenty of it. It’s not just a lone Ichiro here or a Julio Cruz there, the M’s have several stolen base threats with Jean Segura, Jarrod Dyson, and Leonys Martin in their lineup. In addition to the proven stolen base threats they have guys who should steal some bases in Taylor Motter and Mitch Haniger.  But it’s not just the stolen bases, it’s the extra bases-first to third and second to home on a single, scoring on a sacrifice fly from third, taking an extra base or more on fielding mistakes that give the M’s more potential to pressure pitchers and defenses, and score some extra runs.

More base runners and more speed should add to what is already a potent offense with plenty of thump.  But it will no longer be required for the M’s to hit the long ball to take charge of a game.

Defense

I’ve written ad nauseum about the need for the Mariners to field an outfield best suited for the size of Safeco Field. Jack Zdurencik’s predilection for assembling outfielders who made Hanley Ramirez look like Joe Dimaggio by comparison was legendary.  This year Dipoto went the other direction and and the guys look like greyhounds straining at the slip. Dyson and Martin are both veteran outfielders with superior defense.  Haniger, in right field, looks to be an excellent fielder with a strong arm.  Reserve outfielder Guillermo Heredia can play any of the outfield positions. This is zones covered, runs saved, pitching performances salvaged much better than the 2016 version.

Jean Segura was an average major league shortstop before he was traded from Milwaukee to Arizona. In 2016 Segura played shortstop for the Diamondbacks, but he’ll revert back to his natural position with the M’s. He replaces Ketel Marte who was a a bad defensive shortstop in 2016.  Marte may grow into something much better, but his -2 Defensive Runs Saved, -15.3 UZR 150 and 21 errors won’t be missed.  Call Segura a defensive upgrade.

Last year the M’s signed Chris Iannetta to be their starting catcher and exiled Mike Zunino to Tacoma to work on his swing.  Iannetta struggled defensively, racking up a -6 defensive runs saved in his 776.1 innings.  When Zunino took over the catching duties, he put up 4 defensive runs saved in 443.2 innings.  Enter Chooch. The M’s added Carlos Ruiz to their catching corps, the first of Dipoto’s many additions to the 2017 team.  There is much to admire about Ruiz: his work with pitchers, his veteran presence, his World Series Championship pedigree.  But in his 493 innings of work with the Dodgers last year, Chooch saved 7 defensive runs.  The Mariners are much better at catcher than they were in 2016.

The clubhouse intangibles 

We rarely talk about chemistry in baseball.  It’s a big deal in football, basketball, maybe even in soccer, games that seem to generate so much more emotion on the field than baseball. Baseball often seems a struggle between batter and pitcher, with each taking their turn, and most hitters returning to the dugout trying figure out what to do differently next time.

But this year it feels as though it feels like something is different.  The Mariners are sending out bonding smoke signals.  Prior to the beginning of the WBC Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, in their interview with Marly Rivera expressed their happiness with the Mariners clubhouse.  “It is one of the best I’ve ever been in, in terms of friendship and the way we get along,” Cano said.

Even newcomer and relative youngster Taylor Motter commented on the welcoming atmosphere in the Mariner clubhouse.  He especially appreciated Scott Servais’ early morning meeting and role they played in getting know his teammates, according to Shannon Drayer’s March 31st story.

“To get to know my new teammates, inside-out, families, hobbies, the things that they do outside of baseball,” Motter said. “It’s not just be a good teammate, be a good teammate, a good person, and let the rest take care of itself.”

It’s too early to know whether this will contribute to a winning culture on the field.  But I remember the poisonous atmosphere of past Mariner clubhouses: the whispering against Ichiro, Mike Sweeny’s threat to punch out whoever revealed Ken Griffey, Jr’s naps in the clubhouse to the media.  This has got to be better.

Concerns

Starting Pitching

How different is the 2017 starting rotation than the 2016 version?

2016 began with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Wade Miley and Nate Karns.  Each and every one of them suffered through extended periods of ineffectiveness and in many cases injury. Only Iwakuma made all of his scheduled starts. The rotation was filled out with various Wade LeBlancs, Cody Martins and a host of lesser lights.

In 2017, most of those starting five are gone.  Tonight Felix will start the season, followed by James Paxton, Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo.  Each of these pitchers have pretty large question marks hanging over their heads. If one had to put an up or down arrow over their heads based on last year’s performance, only Paxton would have an arrow pointing up.  Miranda might have one pointing sideways.  It’s my belief the team will go as far as the starting pitching will take it.  A modest improvement should propel the Mariners into the playoffs.

Bullpen

The bullpen is filled with uncertainty and unknowns.  With many of the players the Mariners counted on for this season still recovering from injury,  Servais will be nursing them through until reinforcements arrive.  Even wunderkind closer Edwin Diaz, a superstar in the making, faltered at the end of 2016.  It remains to be seen whether Evan Scribner, Casey Fien and Nick Vincent can do the job in late innings.  Dan Altavilla, James Pazos, and Dillon Overton haven’t had much experience at the major league level.  That the bullpen has so many left-handers to start the season is a sign the relief corps is pretty thin.  It will be interesting to see how things will shake out when Zych, Cishek and Simmons return. The bullpen is, at best, a question mark.

The cliff

Albert Pujols is beginning his age 37 season, his sixth of the ten year contract he signed with the Angels.  He came to Los Angeles as one of the greatest hitters in major league baseball history, 30th in WAR with 91.1 (according to FanGraphs) behind only Lou Gehrig and Mel Ott as first basemen.  In his ten years with St. Louis, Pujols never earned less than 5.4 WAR.  In 2003 he stroked an amazing 9.5 WAR.  In the years of his Angels contract, he has garnered a total of 9.8 WAR. Some of the decline is due to his shift to DH, in which he suffers a penalty, but most is due to injury and eroding skills.

The Mariners have several key players facing one cliff or another.  The age cliff is a big one on this team.  Nelson Cruz and Hisashi Iwakuma are both 36.  Robinson Cano is 34. Jarrod Dyson is 32.  Felix Hernandez and Yovani Gallardo are both 31.  Just because a players crosses the age 30 threshold doesn’t mean they are doomed.  Just ask Bartolo Colon or Ichiro if they can still play the game at age 40+.  But it is a fact that bat speed can decline, fast ball velocity decreases with age and use.  We haven’t seen it yet in the case of Cruz or Cano, but at some point they are going to turn the corner on their talent. All of the projection services see them finishing below their 2016 production; a lot below. And don’t get me started on Felix or Kuma.

The more a player ages, the more likely they are to suffer injury. Each of these guys are key players for this staff.  The loss of any of them for an extended time will seriously affect the Mariners plans.  Dipoto has worked hard to insure the organization has more depth, but let’s be clear; there is nobody in the organization to replace Cruz or Cano. Chris Heston cannot be Felix.

Finally there is the cliff of regression.  Some players have such good seasons, they simply can’t repeat that level of performance again.  Jean Segura had that kind of performance last year. His .319/.369/.499 slash was vastly superior to his career .280/.319/.396.  Which is more indicative of the player the M”s traded for? I’m betting on a 10-15% slide from 2016.  But even that is a huge improvement to standing pat with Ketel Marte.  Other players may be subject to regression too.  Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager both had career highs for homers.  Is there more upside to their power?  I have a hard time imagining they do.  What will Dyson’s performance look like as an every day player?  Can he hit left-handers well enough to get the 600 at-bats he desperately wants as he heads into 2018 free-agency?

There are lots of reasons to be excited about the Mariners as they open their season tonight.  But it’s definitely best to head into the season with eyes wide-open.  It’s been an exciting hot-stove season, and an interesting spring warm-up.  But I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed about ending that playoff drought.  If the pitching turns out and everyone stays healthy, there should be exciting times.  If the pitching struggles, the season could be long and frustrating.  The Mariners should be competitive for the AL West title, but I’m holding out for a wild card spot.  Or they could finish 2017 just as they finished 2016, dazzlingly close, but not quite able to close the deal.  Go M’s .

 

 

 

Last minute adjustments-Farewell Arizona, hello Houston

erThe M’s wrapped up their spring campaign last night with a 1-1 tie against the Colorado Rockies, following a 5-5 tie Friday against those same Rockies.  The results weren’t important, though the M’s played themselves out of the dubious Cactus League championship.  No, there was plenty news for the M’s in the last week of the practice season.

Miranda
Lefty Ariel Miranda takes Drew Smyly’s place in the rotation, as the M’s rush to fill his spot.  Smyly is recovering from a strained flexor bundle.

Smyly’s soggy arm goes bad

Drew Smyly, a key offseason acquisition, identified early in the week by manager Scott Servais as having a soggy arm, ended up on the disabled list for 6-8 weeks with a flexor bundle strain.  Now, I couldn’t tell you exactly what a flexor bundle is, or exactly how bad that can be, but it doesn’t sound good.  Meanwhile, the M’s have had to do the fast shuffle, and pluck Ariel Miranda from their accumulated pile of pitching depth and plug him into the rotation.  He’ll take Smyly’s scheduled start in Anaheim on Friday April 7th. While not the end of the world, one of my biggest concerns for the M’s heading into the regular season is the quality of the starting rotation, and I find this mildly disconcerting.

Acquisitions

As major league camps shrank their 40-man rosters, general manager Jerry Dipoto knew there may be some valuable pieces available who could help the M’s over the long season and he poached two.

The first, and to my view, most valuable, was right-handed reliever Mark Lowe.  This is Lowe’s third stint with the M’s.  He’s been a very good reliever on some really bad Mariners teams. Lowe was a serviceable arm on some pretty good Texas Rangers teams. He was also  a member of the all-melt-down bullpen of 2015, and the M’s traded him away at the deadline to Toronto.  The Tigers signed him to a two year, handsome deal to begin 2016 and he was terrible. Lowe lost a couple of ticks on his fastball, became eminently hittable and finished the year with a 7.11 ERA, WHIP of 1.581, and allowed 2.1 HR/9. Can he help the Mariners? Well, he’s a major league veteran coming off a bad year in the ‘pen at age 34.  Remember the Fernando Rodney Traveling Road Show and House of Horrors?  After absolutely sucking for the Mariners in 2015, he was absolutely brilliant last year at age 39 for the Padres, then when he got traded to the Marlins seemed to return to his dark side.  Bullpen arms are a crapshoot.

The M’s also picked up infielder Gordon Beckham when he was released by the Giants.  Beckham began his career with the White Sox, but has consistently struggled at the plate since his 2013 season.  It provides the M’s some depth, but it’s difficult to see how he pushes Taylor Motter, Shawn O’Malley or Mike Freeman out of the way unless there is some sort of disastrous event on the golf course in which all are swallowed in a sand trap.

Final Major League Roster

C     Mike Zunino; Carlos Ruiz

1B  Danny Valencia

2B  Robinson Cano

SS  Jean Segura

3B  Kyle Seager

OF Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia

Utility  Taylor Motter

Rotation

Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo

Bullpen

Cl Edwin Diaz, RHP Evan Scribner, RHP Nick Vincent, RHP Casey Fien, RHP Dan Altavilla, LHP Mark Rzepczynski, LHP James Pazos, LHP Dillon Overton.

Not a lot of news here.  With three right-handers on the DL, guys who would be on the big league roster, the Mariners had to go with what they perceived as the hot hand.  Tony Zych will likely be ready within a week or two.  Steve Cishek may follow by the end of April  Shae Simmons is less clear.  Who will go and who will stay as these guys make their way back will likely be determined by early performance.

 

 

 

Smyly’s “soggy” arm, Simmons is shelved

Smyly

More spring training hi-jinks for the M’s as the team heads toward opening day Monday.  The first, and most concerning is the state of Drew Smyly’s arm.  He was pulled from his scheduled bullpen session because his arm didn’t feel right.  Manager Scott Servais characterized it as “soggy,” which wasn’t an adjective I’ve heard applied to arms.  Maybe my lawn, newspapers, or cheese sandwiches, but not a pitcher’s throwing instrument.

Scratched from his final spring training start Friday, Servais explained Smyly would be examined by a doctor. However, he refused to be painted into a corner about when Drew might return to the rotation. If he’s unable to go for his first regular season start, scheduled for April 6th, the M’s will likely go to Tacoma for left-hander Ariel Miranda, optioned to the Rainiers on Saturday.  Another possibility is Dillon Overton, another left-hander, who has had a solid spring and is still in major league camp.

Continuing in the same vein, the M’s have shelved right-handed reliever Shae Simmons with a strained forearm flexor.  While there isn’t any structural damage, it is a setback for the hard-throwing reliever.  Simmons figured to be a hard throwing piece in the Mariners bullpen to complement Edwin Diaz.

Servais suggested patience and caution were required to insure Simmons contribution to the Mariners in 2017. “It’s a flexor strain and we’ll be a little cautious. It’s not progressing as our medical people had hoped, so we’re going to slow him down a little bit,” Servais said.

Simmons came to the M’s in a trade with Atlanta on January 11. He spent all of 2015 and part of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Rest is the prescribed treatment and no date is projected for his return.

Simmons joins Tony Zych and Steve Cishek as projected relievers who are unlikely to begin the season with the Mariners due to injury.

Yes, it’s only spring training. . . but really?

Gallardo
Yovani Gallardo gets ready to join the procession of starting pitchers destroyed in their most recent start.  Today Gallardo surrendered seven runs on nine hits, including three dingers, in his 4.1 innings of work. 

A couple of interesting articles on the web today.  Well, Thursday actually, but who’s counting? Tony Blengino posted an interesting analysis of the AL West on Fangraphs, using his own BIP modeling, and determined the M’s were the strongest team in an AL West with teams full of flaws.  However, his belief was the M’s, built out of desperation to win now, should beat the Astros, and do well in the playoffs. In the interest of transparency, Blengino was the chief statistical analyst for Jack Zdurencik in 2009, but was pretty much shuffled to the side of the road when the 2010 team imploded.

A pretty interesting and fun, if somewhat fanciful story on Lookout Landing by Isabelle Minasian and John Trupin today.  They compare and contrast the 2017 and 2001 teams. Despite many disclaimers, Minasian and Trupin’s work is fun, though I don’t quite see as many comparisons they do.  I must say this.  If you truly love Mariners baseball LL is showcasing some of the very best writing in the many years I’ve been reading this blog.  They’ve added some new faces to their team, and since Kate Preusser took over as editor, the quality of writing-always interesting-has simply gone through the roof.  Still lots of stats, but as a writing-first person, I’ve never been more impressed.

Yes, lots of kind words for the Mariners, but they actually did play a game today.  Yep the M’s ran out one of their starting five, and for the second day in a row was tied to a stake, lit on fire and burned alive.  Yesterday it was Drew Smyly allowing an impressive three home runs in four innings to go with three other hits and four walks.  Drew was “rusty.”

Today the victim was Yovani Gallardo.  In 4.1 innings, Gallardo equaled Smyly, coughing up three homers, allowing a total of nine hits and two walks to create seven earned runs.  But wait, as though it wasn’t enough to cremate the starting pitcher, lefty specialist Mark Rzepczynski jumped in the barbecue pit with him, doused himself with fire starter and lit a match.  A mere 11 pitches later, Scrabble allowed four hits, including a home run and three earned runs.  Brisket for two.

Yes friends, it is just spring training, but it’s getting late in the game.  I know, I know it’s tough to pitch in Arizona.  Yes, pitchers are working on stuff.  But others somehow manage to do it.  Especially against the backdrop of lots of movement out of the major league camp, I’d sure like some reassurance that the starting rotation is a little more stable than I fear it is.

The Tacoma shuttle sets up

A series of moves this weekend began to set up the rotation in Tacoma.  Saturday, lefty Ariel Miranda was optioned to the Rainiers.  Manager Scott Servais’ observation that Miranda had been “just OK” this spring, as well a desire to see him as a starter rather than a reliever, led to pulling the trigger on the move.

Sunday the M’s sent right hander Chris Heston to Tacoma, and Cody Martin, Nick Hagadone and Jean Macchi to minor league camp.  None of these were a surprise though Hagadone, coming off two years of serious injury, had a pretty good camp and was a sentimental favorite to make the team.

Seven days to go

The season begins for the Mariners a week from today in Houston.  The M’s still have a lot to do.  Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz are both ill with the cold that has circulated the clubhouse.  Danny Valencia continues to struggle with the bat.  Jarrod Dyson continues to struggle with his legs. Lots of work to do in terms of sorting out the bullpen.  With Tony Zych, Shae Simmons and Steve Cishek likely not that far from being able to join the team-in April some time-do the M’s add players like right-hander Jonathan Aro or lefty Dean Kiehefer to the 40-man roster, knowing they’ll have to lose somebody for a three or four week fill in.  Today the bullpen looks like this:

Edwin Diaz      RHP

Evan Scribner RHP

Mark Rzepczynski  LHP

Dan Altavilla  RHP

Nick Vincent  RHP

Casey Fien  RHP

With the guys unable to go for opening day, and a desire to carry eight in the ‘pen, there’s room for two more, one a right-hander, the other a lefty. It’s looking like James Pazos will be that left-hander, but the righty is less clear.  It’s quite possible, with other teams cutting down their rosters, Trader Jerry will be unable to restrain his basic instincts and the M’s will add another to the mix in the closing days of camp, as the Mariners did to acquire Nick Vincent in 2016.  Though the roster is settled elsewhere, the clay still ain’t dry in the bullpen.

Felix, Zych and Cishek give M’s a lift.

hernandez_648dmmp0_jjh9x2nq

I never know quite what to make of spring training games and how much to take away from the end result. But this is been a tough week to follow Mariner pitching.  On Sunday Dillon Overton pitched a few innings against the Rangers and gave up a couple of unearned runs. On Tuesday the Dodgers dismantled Chris Heston.  On Wednesday it was Cody Martin dismembered on the mound by the Angels, with a side of Nick Vincent’s home run sauce.  On Tuesday,  Drew Smyly threw a B-game against minor leaguers, and followed up his superb effort against Venezuela in the WBC with a game of unpretty practice, surrendering four runs on seven hits over five innings.

Every time I see a week like this I get flashbacks to the closing days of the 2015 Cactus League.  Pitchers regularly slaughtered and thinking, hey, it’s just spring training, they’ll be fine.  The M’s are supposed to win it all. It’s in all the papers.

So it was nice for the Mariners to get some positive pitching news on Thursday.  First, and most obvious, was a sterling outing by Felix Hernandez. against the Giants.  Six innings, one hit, no walks and five strikeouts on 73 pitches.  Yes, it was not complete Giants lineup, but the King worked efficiently, moved the ball around settling for weak contact over protracted battles with hitters for the strikeout.

“Good mechanics, good pitches, around the zone, trying to finish hitters. It was really good,” Hernandez said.

It was clear manager Scott Servais also appreciated Hernandez’s efficient approach, preferring effective pitches in the strike zone to induce soft contact to the King’s past preference for the strikeout

“He likes striking them out like every pitcher does, but sometimes being more efficient certainly helps out,” Servais  said.

If seeing Felix as the pitcher all fans hope he will be in 2017, the M’s also got some much-needed good news on the injury front.  Tony Zych appeared in his first game against Rangers minor leaguers on Thursday.  He had a 1-2-3 inning.  Though it still seems unlikely, according to MySportsNW reporter Shannon Drayer, that he’ll be ready for the season opener on April 3rd, his performance yesterday puts him much closer.

The M’s added on to the good news with the successful performance by Steve Cishek, pitching off a mound for the first time since his hip labrum surgery.  Cishek is not likely to get into a game situation before spring training breaks, but his first time out was considered a success.

Yes, it’s all just spring training, but I’d rather see good pitching than terrible pitching.

 

 

Vogelbach to Tacoma, Valencia to first.

Dan Vogelbach
Tuesday the M’s sent first baseman Dan Vogelbach to the Tacoma Rainiers, citing additional defensive development and struggles at the plate for his demotion. 

Today the news the Mariners have optioned first baseman Dan Vogelbach to Tacoma.  The M’s worked throughout the winter with Vogelbach to improve his defense.  Though it was clear there was some improvement, he still had work to do.

Surprisingly, however, it was the stocky first baseman’s bat that let him down. Vogelbach has shown the ability to hit throughout his minor league career.  He started well in the Cactus League, showing the ability to get on base, hitting the ball to the opposite field, though he hadn’t shown much power. However, he’d done nothing but struggle the last ten days, going 1-24 with ten strikeouts over his last 10 games.

Mariners skipper Scott Servais left the door open for Vogelbach’s return, assuring him the things he needed to work on should be done away from the day-to-day pressures of the big league club.  He used catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher James Paxton as examples of players who went to Tacoma to fix things, but came back as important pieces of the team.

“We will take the appropriate time and care to make sure that when [Vogelbach] comes to the big leagues, he’s polished enough in the areas that are important.”

Sending out Vogelbach out with ten days until the start of the regular season gives right-hander Danny Valencia regular time at first base to prepare for the start of the season.  Valencia has also struggled at the plate in Cactus League play with a .196/.288/.326 slash in 46 at-bats. However, he does have the advantage of 2,258 largely successful major league at-bats.

Taylor Motter becomes the back up at first base, having won the utility job by dint of Shawn O’Malley’s untimely adventures with appendicitis. This insures that Guillermo Heredia will also win the fourth outfield job.