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Classic Mariners ‘preview’: Nelson Cruz makes debut in 2015

Nelson Cruz made his Mariners debut against the Angels in 2015. (Getty)

With the Mariners’ 2020 season postponed until further notice, 710 ESPN Seattle is airing a different classic M’s game every night at 7 p.m. (full schedule here). Below, Mariners insider Shannon Drayer provides a preview of the next game.

Monday April 6, 2015

Opening day 2015 the Mariners were ready to rock and roll. Coming off a 2014 season that saw the team add 16 wins from the previous year and finish 87-75, some key young players had gained experience, some veterans hit their strides, and the Mariners went out and made a bit of a splash in free agency taking a 22nd ranked Opening Day payroll all the way up to the 11th best.

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The most notable new addition, Nelson Cruz. While upstairs had been wary to sign him the year before, this year they left nothing to chance, going the extra fourth year that just about every pundit and blogster panned. In the end, it would turn out to be one of the best free agent signings in the history of the club.

Also new to the Mariners, J.A. Happ, Rickie Weeks and Seth Smith. Carson Smith, who debuted the previous September, would also play a vital role for the team in 2015.

Felix Hernandez was coming off a 2014 campaign that ended with him getting just nudged out of his second Cy Young Award as the voters gave the ever-so-slight nod to Corey Kluber, who would have been the opening day starter with the Rangers against the Mariners last week at T-Mobile Park.

The feel in spring training 2015 was vastly different from the previous year. In 2014, there was a new manager, Lloyd McClendon, new superstar and the circus that comes with that coming over from the Yankees in Robinson Cano, and a lot of younger players still finding their way. The 2015 clubhouse was much, much more veteran and with that the classic “just going about their business getting ready for the season” feel.

Something else was different, too. With the additions, the progress made in 2014 and the star power of Cano and Felix, all of a sudden Peoria became a must-stop for the national media. Every outlet and every writer were there and at the end of spring when the predictions were made, many picked the Mariners to get to the post season. Buster Olney of ESPN had them in the World Series. Bob Nightengale of USA Today had them winning it all. The Mariners were all of a sudden the darlings.

So lots of good heading into opening day, but one slight concern by some: Felix had a terrible spring training. He finished with a 10.22 ERA and failed to get out of the second inning of his final spring start, giving up 7 runs. Those around him weren’t too worried. Felix really had never been much of a spring training pitcher. He feeds off the energy around him and spring training in general bored him. In the opener, he was awoken from his spring slumber in a hurry, with one blast off the bat of I bet you can guess who.

Lineups!

Angels

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matthew Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Johnny Giavotella, 2B

Jered Weaver, P

Mariners

Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS

Felix Hernandez, P

Yikes, the bottom third of the lineup, youth that did not pan out. Costly for the Mariners moving forward.

For his part, Lloyd McLendon in his second year managing the team said he would set the expectations for the season and one thing that he expected was offense. Lots of it. After finishing 23rd in runs in 2014 McClendon predicted the 2015 version of the Mariners would put up 700. Very high expectations in 2015 for the Mariners.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

Read Shannon’s Get To Know Your Mariners series

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