Cactus League opens: what I’m looking for

2018 spring training.

Today the M’s open their spring training games against their Peoria rivals, the San Diego Padres.  The M’s will be on the radio at noon.  Sadly, I’ll be teaching my sophomores about the New Deal.

I always look forward to the Cactus League games because, dang it, it’s baseball.  But this year I have a certain amount of trepidation, because actually playing the game always carries some risks, namely injury.  Even before today’s opener, number four starter Erasmo is out with a lat strain, and his availability for the March 29 season opener is in question.  Newly acquired first baseman is out after undergoing surgery to move a floating bone spur in his hand.  His status for the regular season is likewise ?

For Ramirez, it is has driven my much closer to the–Jerry should do something for the rotation school of thought.  Did you know the average mlb team used 11.2 starters during the regular season in 2017? The mean number, the most common number of starters used in the season was 11, used by eight teams. 23 teams used starters in double figures.  Of those that did not are Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and the San Francisco-so a mix of good and bad teams.

That said, the M’s rotation and currently conceived includes James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Ramirez, Marco Gonzalez, Ariel Miranda, and Andrew Moore.  That’s seven guys, with one already wounded. Getting past that you’re looking at pitchers who either aren’t ready or have failed spectacularly-Christian Bergman, Max Povse, Rob Whalen, Chase DeJong. That’s eleven guys.  If you go past that you get crickets. It would be foolish not to add to this underwhelming collection of arms.

That said there are some important things to watch for:

Numero uno on my list is the play of Mike Ford and Dan Vogelbach.  With Healy out for nearly all of the Peoria warm-ups, it’s an opportunity for Ford, a Rule Five draft pick to show what he has.  Ford is the opposite of Healy.  He’s a first baseman without a lot of pop, but is an on-base machine.  I tend to like guys who can keep an inning alive without a ton of strikeouts, but I’m clearly in a minority.  I’m pulling for Vogelbach to have a great spring and show us the Mike Montgomery trade was not a clossal freakin’ mistake. But I’m not holding my breath.  In fairness however, the big guy hasn’t had much of a shot in his limited trip to the big leagues, and I’m hoping he can make a definitive case for remaining on the 40 man roster.

Though he won’t pitch today, I’m excited to see what Marco Gonzalez brings to the table without limitations to his pitches.  Will he be better throwing his cutter?  He better be, because he is the odds-on favorite for the fifth starter spot

What do the speedy Dee Gordon and Jean Segura give the Mariners at the top of the order. Do they get on enough to make pitchers crazy, and have the speed to score on mistakes?

Can the Mariners cut down on TOOTBLANS, and end their base-running woes.  What will Scott Servais do to them if they haven’t?

Those are some things that I’m looking for.

Note: At press time, game over M’s defeat their stadium rivals 3-2.  Gordon and Segura did their job. Kyle Seager doubled in Segura. Vogelbach doubled. The pitching crew of Miranda, Moore, James Pazos, Christian Bergman, Shawn Armstrong, and Dan Altavilla held on for the win. Four baserunning mistakes-yikes and double yikes. But at least it’s baseball and March 29th is that much closer.




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