No team with a $111 million budget should be thin, but the Seattle Mariners are – and among a handful of irreplaceable players on their roster, Felix Hernandez may have topped the list.
While awaiting word on Felix’s right elbow, this team seems much less formidable than 24 hours ago.
First, the concern has to be about a 21-year-old ace who learned the value of hard work last winter and had translated it into two victories. Elbow ‘tightness’ could mean anything from a mild strain to a tear, from a few weeks out of the rotation to potentially career threatening.
Beyond that, there’s the Seattle season. If Felix is down, those crying for a firing or two will get louder.
Before the season began, it was said here that if the Mariners got to May 15 as a .500 team they’d be playing well and have gotten through one of the more challenging stretches of their season.
No one in the American League West is running away, and the longer the Mariners stay close, the better their chances late in the summer. Hargrove has done nothing in Seattle’s first 10 games to put his job in jeopardy – figure Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel and Kansas City’s Buddy Bell are in more trouble at the moment.
But if Felix is down, this rotation becomes decidedly more mortal, no matter who slides into it in his absence.
Washburn is a serviceable No. 2 starter, but beyond that Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez are end of the rotation starters, Jeff Weaver is a problem and whoever takes the fifth spot is going to be short on experience.
You never expect a team to go through a season without injury, and inevitably it seems the dagger strikes where a roster is weakest. The Seattle rotation has now been formally challenged, whether for a few weeks or longer.
How it responds likely will determine how well the Mariners play, and whether Bill Bavasi and Hargrove keep their jobs.