Take a few weeks off, suddenly the Seattle Mariners can’t stop making news, from the Michael Pineda - Jesus Montero trade with the Yankees to signing journeyman Kevin Millwood to inviting every young player in their farm system to spring training.
Yes, a bit to catch up with, so let’s start with some of the youngsters you’ll be reading about.
The Mariners have invited these nine prized rookies to camp among the 25 non-roster invitees this spring: RHP Taijuan Walker, LHP James Paxton, INF Nick Franklin, OF Vinnie Catricala, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, RHP Stephen Pryor, RHP Forrest Snow, C Jesus Sucre and C Ralph Henriquez.
Acccording to Baseball America, that group of youngsters includes the men with the Mariners best farm system fastball (Walker) and curve (Paxton), with Danny Hultzen (best changeup and command) and Chance Ruffin (best slider) already on the roster. The commitment to youth in Seattle this season includes bringing everyone old enough to shave to camp.
Which doesn’t mean there isn’t Plan B.
Clearly, the 37-year-old Millwood belongs there, a 163-game winner who hasn’t had a good season since 2009. A low-risk, probably low-reward signing – he gets $1 million if he makes the team – Millwood will make Seattle’s rotation only if pitchers like Charlie Furbush, Blake Beavan, Hultzen, Paxton and Walker are deemed not ready for opening day.
The Mariners have other veterans in the wings, like reliever Aaron Heilman, 33, and lefty Oliver Perez, 30. Seattle has depth it would just as soon keep in the minors – and Millwood, Heilman and Perez fall in that group. If they make the team, it will be because one young pitcher or another proved he needed more time.
Heading into camp Feb. 12, the Mariners realistically have four members oof their starting rotation - Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hector Noesi. That means Seattle arguably has the most talented group of competitors for the fifth spot in franchise history. How many springs would the Mariners loved to have had a pitchers like Hultzen, Paxton, Walker, Furbush, Beaven and Ramirez?
The answer is easy. All of them.