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Drayer: Mariners begin a very different, very important Spring Training

Rookie Justin Dunn will be looking to secure a spot in the Mariners' rotation this spring. (Getty)

The offseason is officially over.

Report: Mariners sign Carlos González | M’s extend spring invites to four

Pitchers and catchers are reporting to camps in Florida and Arizona and Spring Training is underway. No more staring out the window waiting for baseball to return. While there are still unsigned free agents available, the main focus now will be on what happens on bullpen mounds and in batting cages. Pop of the glove, crack of the bat, it is time to get this thing going.

This will be my 19th spring training covering the Mariners, and while trepidation has seemed to outpace anticipation in the approach by many to the team’s 2020 season, in my eyes this spring has the potential to be far more interesting than most that I have witnessed. This one should be different.

What I suspect will jump out to me the most will be just how young the clubhouse is. We knew this was coming. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto spent an offseason telling everybody that 2020 would be about the young players, but to actually see it will be a different matter. Félix will not be at his locker by the door but Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez will take up residence somewhere in the room. There will not be a veterans’ corner this spring as that would require, well, veterans. The end of the clubhouse that typically houses the yet-to-be-known young players will now just be the end of the clubhouse.

There are so many young players now that at Marco Gonzales’ contract extension press conference, the Mariners starting pitcher talked about asking Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield about what they had going together as a team in Arkansas because so many of them would be up this year. Make no mistake, this is Marco’s rotation to lead, and as you can see he is taking it seriously.

It’s still interesting that he wanted to know more about the younger players as a group. He shouldn’t be alone. It isn’t often you see a group of this size brought up together. There will certainly be bumps, the entire thing could crash and burn, but if Dipoto’s plan is successful and what we see in Peoria this spring is indeed the core of future Mariners teams – good Mariners teams – this will have been a very important spring in franchise history.

There are of course questions to be answered in the next 42 days. Will Dunn be deemed ready to go or will the Mariners have to come up with another fifth starter? What did Yusei Kikuchi do this winter to try and rebound from a rocky first year in the big leagues? How does the bullpen shake out, and will one of the Double-A relievers – Sam Delaplane, Joey Gerber or Art Warren – make the jump to the big club? Does outfielder Jake Fraley look ready to play every day in Seattle or might he require a tune up in Tacoma? What does Evan White look like every day at first base? How does Dee Gordon acclimate to his role with Shed Long Jr. getting most of the starts at second base? Does J.P. Crawford look different?

Plenty to get sorted out, and it all starts Wednesday with the ever-thrilling pitchers and catchers reporting… for physicals. The real fun starts Thursday with the first official workout.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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