Wedge: “We will be a better club and winning will be our focus”

Sep 29, 2011, 12:53 AM | Updated: 10:46 am

Programming note: I will be holding an online chat today (Thursday) at noon. Feel free to stop by and ask questions about the team, the season and the future. I will do my best to answer them.

The year of evaluation has come to an end. This year was not about wins and losses. That was established long before the season began. This year was about finding answers or at the very least knowing exactly what the questions were going forward.

There was a lot to sort through. A new manager and staff trying to learn a mostly new club. I remember walking through the clubhouse door in Peoria this spring and wondering who the heck all of the new guys were. I had never seen so many new faces. Many of those faces we would see at some point in Seattle. We knew the plan was to see youth but it was still a bit startling to see so many young players so soon.

Eighteen rookies saw playing time this year with 12 of them making their major league debuts. The philosophy was they wouldn’t know if they were ready until they saw them at the major league level so why wait if there was a need? I think we can say with full confidence that we have seen everyone who was possibly anywhere close to major league ready.

What have we learned? Michael Pineda indeed was ready as was Dustin Ackley. Brandon League is a closer. Mike Carp is a big league hitter. Tom Wilhelmsen will be a significant part of the bullpen.

There of course are question marks. Third base. Alex Liddi was a late surprise. We didn’t see enough but could they let him compete in spring training? Is Kyle Seager ready to be an every day player or does he need more time in the minors? Starters four and five? Did Blake Beavan show enough? Will Justin Smoak respond to the challenge put before him to work harder and get stronger. Left field?

Those are just the questions about the youngsters. The irony of ironies is that in a year that was supposed to be about answering questions about the kids, we were left with perhaps more questions about the veterans.

Can Franklin Gutierrez stay healthy and strong enough to compete and hit at the level he did when he first came to the Mariners? Can Ichiro rebound or change? Will the changes that Jason Vargas made in September lead to the consistency that has eluded him throughout a full season? What will they do with Chone Figgins?

A lot of questions. Expect to find answers sooner rather than later because next year will not be a year of evaluation according to Eric Wedge.

“There have been a lot of times this year where we’ve put individuals ahead of the game because that’s where we are in this process,” he said. “This will be the last year for that. Because as you’re building this and you’re trying to figure out about guys, you want to answer questions as quickly as possible. And sometimes that can be painful and sometimes I’ve got to make tough decisions with that.”

The Mariners had the self declared luxury of time to figure out the guys this year. Next year is a different story and this has been made clear to the rookies.

“I talked to them before the game about expectations,” Wedge said. “I want you to get comfortable with expectations and understand what it means to have expectations higher than what you are accustomed to. The expectations will continue to rise as we continue to get better. We will be a better club and winning will be our focus.”

How much help they will receive from the outside has yet to be seen. Regardless, we have an interesting offseason and spring ahead of us.

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Wedge: “We will be a better club and winning will be our focus”