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Aaron Goldsmith previews Mariners’ spring training

Aaron Goldsmith is keeping an eye on one particular Mariners veteran: Felix Hernandez. (AP)

Following in the footsteps of another Seattle team, the Mariners parted ways with several longtime stars this offseason. With so many new faces – and an interesting goal for 2019 – there’s no shortage of questions about this year’s Mariners team.

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Mariners play-by-play announcer Aaron Goldsmith joined Brock Huard and Mike Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday morning to preview Seattle’s 2019 season and try to answer a few of those questions.

“This is just a totally different feel to this Spring Training,” Goldsmith said. “And I’m excited to kind of hit the books and get caught up to speed on everything, because I know (general manager) Jerry (Dipoto) has not taken a day off since the end of last season.”

When it comes to which new faces he’s most excited to see, Goldsmith lists pitcher Justus Sheffield, shortstop J.P. Crawford, and outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic. (It’s worth noting, though, that not all of those players will see time in the majors this year.)

There’s one veteran who also makes that list: pitcher Félix Hernández.

“I’ll tell you what, this is kind of sneaky and below the surface level, but I’m going to be really interested to see and watch Félix this Spring Training,” Goldsmith said. “Because listen, this is his final year under contract. We all know that. It could be his final year in a Mariners uniform. Who knows what the 2020 season will hold for him. Regardless, this could be your last chance to see a guy who’s been a generational player and has been the face of the franchise and has provided you, a Mariners fan, with some of the greatest moments of your Mariners fandom. This might be your last chance to see him really up close and personal in a Mariners Spring Training.

“Obviously he’s coming off of what was the most disappointing season of his career. He has plenty of motivation to pitch well this year. So I will be looking at that from a lot of different angles.”

As for what Goldsmith thinks of the busy offseason and step back to re-focus on 2020 and 2021?

“It’s so funny because I’ve got every possible response from random fans (about these changes). I’ve gotten everything from, ‘Well, here comes a 100-loss season,’ to ‘What are they doing?’ to ‘Yeah, this was the right thing to do.’

“It’s kind of been funny to watch that unfold among the fan base. But I think you can explain what’s happening very clearly and very logically if you just sit down and not only look at the Mariners’ situation internally, but then also look at the situation that is around them within the American League. The Yankees are not going away, the Red Sox are not going away, the Astros are not going away. The Indians haven’t done a ton to better themselves, but they still have a good nucleus there in Cleveland for sure. So when you look at the competing teams and where the Mariners stack up – and we didn’t even mention the Oakland Athletics – you can understand by where the roster was for the Mariners that this was kind of the perfect time to seize this moment and try to reload as quickly as possible.

“So the thing that I think needs to be stressed the most – we all have emotional attachments to these guys, right? Even as broadcasters we do. We love Mike Zunino. We love James Paxton. We all have attachments to these players, so it’s so hard to watch them go, especially for the unknown in many ways for what the Mariners are getting back. But it was the perfect time, even if our heart tells us otherwise, for the Mariners to strike in this manner and to reload and double the strength of the farm system, which was obviously a glaring need for the organization. Hopefully, it will begin to pay dividends very shortly for the ball club.”

To highlight just how many changes have taken place, Goldsmith shared a story of Sheffield himself breaking the news to a curious Mariners fan that he’d been acquired in a trade for James Paxton. He also talked about the UW Huskies’ quick start in Pac-12 men’s basketball (Goldsmith will call the Huskies’ game against USC for FOX this Wednesday). Listen to Goldsmith’s full interview with Huard and Salk in the audio clip embedded above.

More Mariners coverage:
With so many stars gone, who are the Mariners to watch in 2019?
Drayer: Jerry Dipoto how focus on 2020-21 gives M’s better shot at AL’s elite teams
Mariners sign onetime Giants closer Hunter Strickland
Dee Gordon has been like ‘big brother’ to new M’s prospect Shed Long
Takeaways: M’s manager Scott Servais at pre-spring press conference