2005 Spring Training: A Fresh Start for M's

Three words can explain the nostalgic feeling that baseball fans across the country are experiencing right now. Spring is Eternal.

Who's Back

Bret Boone
Boone returns for the final year of his contract and will no doubt me more than motivated to put 2004 in the past. Boone hit just .251 with 24 home runs last season and will be 36 in April. Lots to prove for the three-time All-Star.

Greg Dobbs
Dobbs will have to hit his way onto the roster this spring or start the year in Tacoma. His swing is a fit at the Safe, but he lacks the punch that the M's would like to get from their left-handed options on the bench.

Justin Leone
Leone is the polar opposite of Dobbs. Great power, but doesn't make enough contact and is a right-handed hitter. Leone coud be a versatile defensive option and runs well. His athletic ability might give him a leg up, if all else is equal.

Jose Lopez
When the M's signed Pokey Reese, Lopez's season was pretty much drawn up as another stay in the City of Destiny. Lopez may play as much second base as shortstop to give the Mariners a chance to decide whether he could be Boone's successor in 2006.

Willie Bloomquist
Bloomquist will back up Boone, Reese, Beltre and probably play some outfield as well - if he makes the team. Hargrove likes hitters and Bloomquist has yet to prove he can hit in the bigs.

Scott Spiezio
Spiezio could end up being a very valuable bench option for the Mariners in 2005. Spiezio swings best from the left side, where he can spell right-handed hitters Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre at the corners once a week. The 32-year-old hit just .215 in '04 but put up solid power numbers with 10 home runs and 41 RBI.

Boone to Rebound in 2005?

Ichiro Suzuki
What is there to say about Ichiro? He'll hit .400 or better for at least one or two months, flirt with a .400 average for the middle three months of the year and get under the skin of every pitcher in the league. What else is new?

Randy Winn
Winn has put up two solid seasons in a Mariners uniform and hitting in front of Beltre and Sexson is only going to help him get better pitches to hit. After hitting .286 with a career-high tying 14 home runs, Winn could set a new career-best in long balls with all the power hitting behind him. Either way, Winn will produce - he's done it from day one.

Jeremy Reed
Reed is set to be the club's new center fielder and will likely hit seventh in the order. Don't expect the 23-year-old to take too much time to adjust to his new role as a big leaguer. He has hit at every stop he has made since picking up a bat when he was a kid, including the .397 he put up last September with the Mariners.

Raul Ibanez
Ibanez could reverse his fortunes from a year ago and hit for more power and see a slight drop in his batting average. Ibanez, 32, hit a career-high .304, including a .333 mark after returning from a hamstring injury that kept him out for five weeks.

An Encore for Ichiro?

Dan Wilson
All the M's need from Wilson is consistency and a good working relationship with Olivo. Consider it done.

Miguel Olivo
Olivo fell apart after being traded to the Mariners in late June. The 26-year-old hit .270 with the White Sox but hit under .200 after being part of the package that netted the Sox Freddy Garcia. As important as his bat is to the lineup, his defense is exponentially more crucial.

Rene Rivera
Rivera is still a year or two away from getting a long look to make the 25-man roster, but his active style behind the plate and his late season showing with the bat in Triple-A Tacoma have opened some eyes.

Olivo, the M's New Catcher

Joel Pineiro
If he's healthy, the M's are fine. If he isn't, the rotation is in much bigger trouble than it already was to begin with. Pineiro has to be the horse. 220 innings and 15 wins is a must. It's a big year for the 26-year-old right-hander.

Jamie Moyer
Moyer simply needs to keep the ball in the park. Surrendering 44 home runs in 2004, Moyer has nowhere to go but down, in that department. If Moyer has one more solid year in him, Seattle can hand over the reins to the kids in 2006.

Gil Meche
Meche was fine after his return from Triple-A Tacoma last summer but he wasn't the top-of-the-rotation starter that everyone knows he can be. Combining the command he displayed in the second half of 2004 with an electric arsenal he has shown in the past could catapult the 26-year-old to stardom.

Bobby Madritsch
Madritsch was stellar after being promoted from Triple-A and all the M's need him to do is stay consistent. Madritsch will likely hold down the fourth slot in the rotation and should have a chance to win 12-15 games.

Ryan Franklin
Franklin's tenure with the M's could be over if the club deems him expendable due to the presence of a few veteran options... Or he could be sent to the bullpen... Or he could pitch so well in the spring that the non-roster invitees aren't even a factor.

Julio Mateo
Mateo has all the necessary pitches to be an effective middle reliever and just needs to be 100 percent healthy. His fantastic 2003 season was not a fluke and a fully recovered Mateo could provide the bullpen with much-needed depth. The 27-year-old has recovered from the elbow tenditis that hindered his performance last season.

J.J. Putz
Putz could be the wildcard for the M's relief corps. In the final two months of the season, Putz logged in 16.1 innings of work and allowed just four earned runs and one walk. If the need arises, Putz could see time in the setup or closer's role.

Shigetoshi Hasegawa
Hasegawa's 2004 season may have been the wall that players hit when they begin to decline but the M's hope he just had a bad year - as did most of the roster. The 36-year-old right-hander will start the year as the right-handed setup man, but the leash may be as short as any on the club.

Eddie Guardado
The burning question for the M's bullpen in 2005: Is Guardado healthy? If he is 100 percent, the pen has a proven anchor. If not, it might be a long season, again.

Ron Villone
Villone led the team with eight wins last season, mostly from the bullpen. The 34-year-old southpaw posted a 2.95 ERA in relief before stepping in and starting 10 games and putting up a 5.43 ERA. Keeping him in the pen is key.

George Sherrill
Sherrill's strengths fit the Mariners bullpen very well. He throws strikes, attacks hitters, gets left-handers out with regularity and is a workhorse. How can a guy like this NOT make the team?

Matt Thornton
Thornton's command will be the deciding factor in his Mariners career. If he doesn't make the club, he could be finished with the M's as the former first round pick is all out of options.

Scott Atchison
Atchison has a chance to win a spot in the bullpen but could be the odd man out with all the qualified right-handers. With 36 K's in 32 innings, Atchison showed he can get big league hitters out. At worst, the Mariners have insurance in Triple-A Tacoma.

Clint Nageotte
The M's top prospect a year ago, Nageotte started the year in Tacoma and was the initial callup of the new blood that poured out onto Safeco Field last season. The 24-year-old had trouble reaching his typical velocity and fell apart thereafter. Nageotte will start 2005 in Tacoma, searching for the control he lost after the 2003 season.

Cha Seung Baek
Baek's role in 2005 might be as a swing guy. No, not the swing between the bullpen and the rotation but the 45 minute drive between Cheney Stadium and Safeco Field. After a strong finish to his '04 campaign, Baek could be the first in line if the Mariners come calling.

Travis Blackley*
Blackley had labrum surgery on February 9 and will miss the entire 2005 season.

Rafael Soriano**
Soriano had UCL surgery in August, 2004 and is expected to miss the first four months of the 2005 season.

Can Mads Solidify the Rotation?

Who's New

Adrian Beltre, 3B
With the biggest contract in team history, Beltre will carry the burden of performing for his new team. His power numbers may not be repeated but he showed signs of becoming a better hitter every month since July of 2003. Look for a big year from the Mariners franchise player.

Pokey Reese, SS
Acquired primarily for defensive purposes, anything over .250 is a bonus from Reese. Just enjoy him while the M's are in the field because .250 might be asking too much.

Richie Sexson, 1B
If Sexson can stay off the disabled list, the M's have two legitimate 40-homer threats to anchor the middle of the order. Sexson probably won't hit above .260 but the mammoth power he possesses is something not even Safeco Field can hold.

Beltre's Bat is More than Welcome

Non-roster Invitees

Aaron Sele, RHP
Probably Franklin's No. 1 competition.

Jeff Nelson, RHP
With a strong spring, Nellie could win the Pacific Coast League title for Tacoma, as he pushes another high quality reliever back to the minors.

Ricky Gutierrez, IF
Gutierrez is capable of playing a decent second base while holding his own with the bat. The 34-year-old is probably the favorite to win the backup middle infield spot with his .266 career average.

Benji Gil, IF
Gil's presence is just in case Bloomquist falls out of favor with the new skipper. Gil=Bloomquist.

Nate Bland, LHP
Bland is a long shot to make the club but could land in Triple-A Tacoma, where the pitching staff resembles that of a quality expansion team.

Masao Kida, RHP
Kida's time in Seattle last season wasn't as fruitful as he would have liked but the M's saw enough to add him to the depth chart for the spring. Kida is probably going to be one of the last cuts, but has little shot to make the team.

Dan Reichert, RHP
Reichert is a former No. 1 pick by Kansas City who spent all of last year at Triple-A trying to work his way back to the big leagues. He's appeared in 124 big league games, including 51 starts, and has an outside chance at sticking with the M's out of spring training.

Other Invitees

Matt Tuiasosopo, SS
Tuiasosopo will soak up the sun, learn from the best the organization has to offer and start his season in Wisconsin of the Midwest League. Stardom may be in his future, but he has a few years to go before having a chance to head north with the big club.

Ramon Santiago, SS
Santiago will serve as a backup plan to Gil and Gutierrez, and even Bloomquist. The switch-hitting 26-year-old swings a light bat but has a solid glove and can play 2B or SS, convincingly.

Kit Pellow, C/1B
Likely to start the season with Triple-A Tacoma.

Adam Jones, SS
Jones is slated to start the season with the Inland Empire 66ers in the California League.

Mickey Lopez, 2B
Lopez is likely headed to Tacoma, where he could backup all three infield spots.

Wiki Gonzalez, C
Gonzalez will have a shot to be the starter in Tacoma as he returns from an injury suffered last April.

Ryan Christianson, C
Christianson will battle Gonzalez for the starting job in Tacoma. If Christianson's arm responds to rehab, he should have the edge heading into spring training.

Rett Johnson, RHP
Johnson has a clean slate to start his comeback after a tough 2004 season. With things in order, the right-hander could conceivably end his 2005 season with the M's if he returns to the form that landed him in Triple-A in the second half of 2003.

Felix Hernandez, RHP
Felix will be the center of attention when spring games start and the right-hander will certainly get some work in against major league hitters. Two words; Just watch.

Meet Mike Hargrove

Dudley Michael Hargrove will take the field on April 4 at Safeco Field as the 13th field manager of the Seattle Mariners. The 55-year-old Hargrove brings 13 seasons of experience to the bench, sporting a 996-963 record with the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles.

"Grover" brings his offensive mentality to the dugout and will attempt to lift the Mariners out of the cellar after a 99-loss season a year ago. The former 25th-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers has four division titles under his belt from his time in Cleveland, including two World Series Appearances. In 1995, Hargrove's Indians lost in six games to the Atlanta Braves and in 1997 his Tribe fell in a heartbreaker to the Florida Marlins in a seven game set. Maybe the third time is a charm. Will it come in a Mariners uniform?

Grover Takes the Helm in 2005

The New Coaches

Bench Coach: Ron Hassey
Hassey spent 14 years as a major league catcher and was one of the better hitting backstops in the late 1980's. Hassey, 52, spent the 2004 season as manager of the Carolina Mudcats in the Florida Marlins organization. Prior to his managing debut last season, Hassey spent time as a scout, catching coordinator and as a special assistant to the GM in Arizona in 1998-1999. Hassey was also the Cardinals bench coach in 1996.

Hassey is the only catcher in major league history to be the receiver for two perfect games and was the 4,999th and 5001st strikeout victim of Nolan Ryan.

Hitting Coach: Don Baylor
Baylor has nine years of managerial experience, taking the Colorado Rockies to their only postseason appearance in team history, and has spent the past two seasons as the bench coach for the New York Mets.

Baylor played 20 seasons in the majors, hitting 338 home runs and winning the 1979 American League MVP.

Third Base Coach: Jeff Newman
Newman will join Hargrove's staff after spending eight seasons with Grover in Cleveland and then again Baltimore. Newman has served as third base coach and catching instructor and is expected to join Dan Wilson and Ron Hassey to be of help to young catcher Miguel Olivo. Newman was a member of the 1979 American League All-Star team and caught 700 games as a major leaguer, mostly with the Oakland Athletics.

First Base Coach: Carlos Garcia
Garcia joins the M's after spending the past three years as the hitting instructor in Triple-A Buffalo in the Cleveland Indians organization. As a player, Garcia spent 10 years in the majors, seven as a Pittsburgh Pirate, and made the National League All-Star team in 1994. Garcia finished his career after the 1999 season with a .266 average in 610 games.

Position Battles

The only guaranteed spots in the M's bullpen are with closer Eddie Guardado, right-hander Shigetoshi Hasegawa and lefty Ron Villone. After that, five arms will fight for the final three spots. Right-handers Julio Mateo, Scott Atchison and J.J. Putz will likely battle for two spots, while George Sherrill and Matt Thornton toil for the role of the second left-hander.

Mateo and Putz probably have the inside track over Atchison for two of the open spots, while Sherrill's command and slider give him the edge for the left-handed specialist's role. Putz showed he can get outs in the late innings and Mateo was fantastic in 2003. Atchison's 25-game showing with the Mariners last season was impressive enough to believe he could win a job this spring, but barring injury, Atchison will likely start the season in Triple-A Tacoma.

It's conceivable that the M's could make a deal or two and clear the way for both Sherrill and Thornton to make the club. If Thornton's 10-inning stint this winter was a pre-cursor of things to come, Hargrove may choose to break camp with three left-handers.

With four spots a virtual lock, all eyes will be on the logjam in the fifth spot. Incumbent Ryan Franklin has the inside track but it's clear that right-handers Aaron Sele and Dan Reichert were brought in to help the team upgrade its rotation, not just fill the field with pitchers. Franklin has a battle on his hands and if Sele or Reichert pitch well enough to warrant a roster spot, the 32-year-old could be traded or sent to the bullpen.

Pineiro, Moyer, Meche and Madritsch will return as the top four starters. Pineiro is coming off of a flexor bundle injury that apparently is not expected to keep him out of action in Peoria. The 26-year-old is the likely opening day starter for the Mariners when they open the season against the Minnesota Twins on April 4.

Moyer is looking for one more year in the sun, while Meche and Madritsch simply hope to continue where they left off in the second half of 2004.

Scott Spiezio and Dan Wilson are pretty much locks to be among the five benchies the M's bring north in early April. With infielders Willie Bloomquist, Jose Lopez, Ramon Santiago, Ricky Gutierrez and Benji Gil looking to land of the final three spots as a backup, former 3B prospects Greg Dobbs and Justin Leone could see time at other positions, including the outfield.

Wilson returns to back up Miguel Olivo, in what will probably be his final year in the league. Spiezio is set to back up Sexson at first and Beltre at third while serving as an option as a pinch hitter. The club is looking for a backup shortstop and that is where Gutierrez and Gil come into play. It's likely that one or the other will win that role over 21-year-old Jose Lopez, who is set to gain more experience in Triple-A Tacoma.

Dobbs and Leone each have an outside shot to make the 25-man roster, and their bats will probably be the difference in either direction. Dobbs is a former outfielder and could probably play left field in a reserve role as a left-handed bat off the bench. His ability to back up at third as well makes Spiezio expendable, if the M's were to find a taker.

Leone is capable of playing the outfield as well, and his power bat is something the Mariners would love to carry. The 27-year-old would have to outplay Dobbs to have a shot at the last spot on the bench.

Outfielder Jamal Strong could impress Hargrove enough to convince him that he can play the defensive replacement/late-inning base runner role.

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