Blowers: Mariners are about to face a ‘good problem’

May 16, 2024, 8:05 AM | Updated: 11:25 am

Seattle Mariners...

(Left to right) Ty France, Dylan Moore and Josh Rojas celebrate a Seattle Mariners' win in 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have started showing signs of improvement offensively, but the lineup is likely about to see changes.

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That could be a good thing, however, as former MLB third baseman and ROOT Sports Mariners color analyst Mike Blowers pointed out.

Blowers joined Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Tuesday for a wide-ranging discussion on the Mariners. One of the topics that came up was the construction of the lineup, which is due to see a number of players return this week. With the lineup potentially hitting full strength for the first time since mid-April, the decisions facing manager Scott Servais could be tough, but Blowers said it’s a “good problem to have.”

The Mariners played without both starting shortstop J.P. Crawford and corner outfielder Dom Canzone for three weeks before Canzone returned to the lineup in Wednesday’s series-clinching 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals. Crawford, who began a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers on Tuesday, could return as early as Friday when Seattle starts a 10-game East Coast road trip against the American League-leading Baltimore Orioles, though there is some question now after he was hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s Rainiers game.

Related: Is expected return of Mariners’ J.P. Crawford now in doubt?

Designated hitter Mitch Garver (back spasms) and second baseman Jorge Polanco (hamstring tightness) have also missed the past two games as well, but the day-to-day nature of those injuries means either could be back in the lineup very soon.

Who bats leadoff?

Crawford’s impending return gives Servais the difficult decision of who should bat atop the order, at least against right-handed pitchers. Breakout third baseman Josh Rojas, who’s also been used at second base and left field, has excelled in the leadoff spot since Crawford went on the IL with a right oblique strain on April 24. In 18 games since Crawford’s injury, Rojas is batting batting a team-high .356 with a .415 on-base percentage and .542 slugging. His run includes one double, two triples, two home runs, four RBIs and three stolen bases.

How should Seattle Mariners’ lineup look when J.P. Crawford returns?

Crawford took over the leadoff role last season while posting by far his best offensive season of his career. However, the 29-year-old shortstop was slashing .198/.296/.302 with just four extra-base hits in 98 plate appearances before going on the IL.

“You have to have J.P. in (the lineup), he’s your starting shortstop,” Blowers said. “He’s a team leader. He’s the guy that makes a lot of things happen, and yes, he was off to a slow start this year, but you got to give him the time that you’ve given everybody else to get things back on track.

“Where you hit him in the lineup?” Blowers continued. “That’s where I have to trust Scott and the front office and the guys that put all the numbers together (with) how they want to go about it, but the flip side, Josh Rojas has done a really nice job in that leadoff spot.”

Additionally, utilityman Dylan Moore has put together a sold stretch with Crawford on the IL. In 19 games since Crawford’s injury, Moore batted .237/.292/.441 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 10 RBIs, the latter of which was behind only catcher Cal Raleigh. Although, not needing Moore to play shortstop daily widens the array of options for Servais and his staff.

“He’s going to be more effective if he gets put in a position to where he’s not playing every day,” Blowers said of Moore, “which is probably going to be the case because Scott loves having him on his bench, which I don’t blame him. But he’s going to move him around a lot more, too.”

Finding a rotation for five players in four spots

The returns also mean the Mariners will have to find a rotation in the corner outfield and DH. If Polanco continues to struggle, second base could be thrown into the conversation as well.

After receiving sparing playing time early on, left-handed outfielder Luke Raley has been one of the team’s hottest hitters in recent weeks. Raley can also slide in at first base, but Ty France is showing signs that his offseason training at Driveline is paying dividends. He’s homered in two of Seattle’s past three games and has four multi-hit games in May, which could be a pivotal month for his future in Seattle. The Mariners had Raley and Canzone in the lineup together Wednesday, which they did just five times in 16 games before Canzone’s injury.

With Canzone and Raley in the corner outfield spots, Mitch Haniger was the DH Wednesday. However, Garver’s likely return will create a logjam between the corner outfield, first base and designated hitter, with the team needing to find some sort of rotation to get the quintet of Canzone, Raley, France, Haniger and Garver at-bats between the four spots. Additionally, having both Canzone and Raley available could limit playing Rojas in left field, which could also keep third baseman Luis Urías from cracking the lineup much other than against left-handed starters.

“I think that it’s a great problem to have,” Blowers said, “and I think that Scott and the front office guys, they’ll put the numbers together and Scott will have a feeling on what he wants to see. And it also gives you the chance if it’s not working for a few days, you can move it around. So we’ll just see what happens.”

Listen to the full conversation with former Mariners third baseman Mike Blowers at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Wyman and Bob weekdays from 2-6 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More Seattle Mariners coverage

• Mariners Updates: Bryan Woo ‘feeling good’ for start; latest on injuries
• Mariners activate Dominic Canzone from IL ahead of series finale vs KC
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Blowers: Mariners are about to face a ‘good problem’