Moore: Mariners have options to turn to if slow start continues

Apr 24, 2015, 11:47 AM | Updated: 11:52 am
Chris Taylor, healthy after breaking a bone in his wrist in spring training, could be help for the ...
Chris Taylor, healthy after breaking a bone in his wrist in spring training, could be help for the Mariners. (AP)
(AP)

As the Mariners prepare to face the Twins this weekend, we still don’t know what to make of them. Will they be the team that was predicted to win the AL West and go to the World Series? Or is this 6-9 start more an indication of who they really are?

On this homestand they were fortunate to take two of three from Texas, twice rallying from five runs down to win 11-10 last Sunday, and had to hang on for a 3-2 win over Houston Wednesday night to avoid an Astros’ sweep.

The Mariners face another 6-9 team in the Twins, and they should get off to a good start Friday night with Felix Hernandez on the mound.

There’s less optimism for James Paxton Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday, but pitching coach Rick Waits said this week that some of the pitchers’ issues have been identified and dealt with. That’s good because Paxton and Iwakuma have a combined ERA of 15.01.

A sweep of the Twins isn’t mandatory, but it would give the Mariners the 6-3 record they hoped for when the nine-game homestand started. It would also put them at 9-9 overall and decrease the team’s chances of returning from a 10-game road trip to Texas, Houston and Anaheim with a losing record.

Iwakuma, Paxton and Taijuan Walker need to show the consistency we always see from Felix and have seen thus far from J.A. Happ. If they falter, the Mariners don’t have good options available.

Roenis Elias, who pitched well last year, has struggled in Tacoma with an 8.04 ERA, and Jordan Pries has an ERA over 9. At least left-hander Mike Montgomery, acquired from Tampa Bay for Erasmo Ramirez, could be a candidate at some point. He had an encouraging outing Thursday night, holding Albuquerque to one hit and no runs in six innings at Cheney Stadium.

There’s better competition among position players. If Logan Morrison continues to hit below .200 – and whatever you want to say about his tough luck, he has no extra-base hits – Jesus Montero could be ready to at least platoon with him at first.

I know I’ve always banged the drum for Montero no matter what, but it’s not such a crazy notion anymore. He hasn’t committed an error at first base this season, and he’s averaging .362 with a .980 OPS for Tacoma after going 2-for-4 Thursday night.

With Nelson Cruz preferring to play right field, Montero could also get time as the Mariners’ DH. Carlos Quentin, who was released by the Braves and signed by the Mariners on Wednesday, is also a possibility.

Chris Taylor is knocking at the door, too. He was in a shortstop battle with Brad Miller until he broke a bone in his wrist during a Cactus League game. Now he’s back and feeling 100 percent with Tacoma according to a Seattle Times story by Ryan Divish. He’s batting .298 with the Rainiers.

I don’t know what I’d do if I were manager Lloyd McClendon. Miller is playing well at short and hitting .298 himself. If you brought up Taylor and released Willie Bloomquist, Taylor wouldn’t get to play every day.

In left field, I’m still not sold on Dustin Ackley and Rickie Weeks, defensively or offensively. And center field’s not a season-long lock for Austin Jackson either if you ask me.

Could Franklin Gutierrez be an option? OK, I know, it’s a ridiculous thought at this point for how often he’s been hurt. But as a left fielder and a center fielder in 10 games for the Rainiers, he’s batting .362 with an OPS of .980.

I’m not saying that Jackson’s life to flying things, but Gutierrez is a better center fielder and would greatly improve the Mariners’ outfield defense – again, if healthy. Gutierrez turned 32 in February so it’s not like he’s washed up just yet.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and 710Sports.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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