Not much better then Opening Day in sunny, I'm a bad lier, rainy, cold Seattle. But Opening Day is really exciting for some reason.Projected Starters:
3/31 - Erik Bedard vs. Kevin Millwood
4/01 - Felix Hernandez vs. Vicente Padilla
4/02 - Carlos Silva vs. Jason Jennings
Keys for the Mariners
Putting Runs Up, Early
The Rangers starting staff is, well, not so good. The Mariners must take advantage of this weakness early because the Rangers have an alright bullpen. Millwood, Padilla, and Jennings are all good pitchers, er, were all good pitchers, but haven't found much more then sub five hundred records and ERA's over 5. Back to the bullpen. The Rangers have no big names, or flashy stat guys, but who they have can get the job done. The Japanese import Kazuo Fukumori was brought in to help, and might. Joaquin Benoit is probably one of the more underrated relievers/set-up men in baseball. CJ Wilson is blossoming in to a decent closer, and they have Eddie Guardado, so they have to be good.
Holding Off the Top of the Order
Although not too many people would know it, but the Rangers have a solid 1-5 in their batting order. When healthy, they'll be starting Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley and Hank Blalock. Kinsler and Hamilton have emerged in to solid hitters. Young seems to have always been one. Bradley is decent when he's healthy, and he also makes those toys or games or whatever. Blalock is a bit more interesting. He hasn't been an amazing hitter, but I always want to think of him as more then an average third baseman. Anyways, There's speed and contact through the first two and power in the last two. Hamilton has a bit of each. It'll be up to the pitchers to shut down these five, the rest isn't very exciting, maybe even less so.
Preserving the Bullpen
The Mariners may have been better then advertised last season, but their bullpen was burnt out. They spent a lot of their relief innings in the first half, which eventually led to their demise. They only have one longish reliever in Cha Seung Baek. More importantly they decided to go with a six man bullpen, and four of those are younger arms, who you don't really want to use up. Not having RA Dickey, who could be considered to have a rubber arm may hurt them in the first few weeks. He'll get a call up at some point. Maybe the Mariners want to showcase Baek a little more then trade him. Thus leaving a spot for Dickey.
Getting off to a Good Start
The Mariners need to prove to themselves that they are for real this season. Right off the bat they need to establish theirselves as a threat. They have high expectations this year. Guys like Richie Sexson and Jose Lopez have to bounce back, but more importantly, the top players, Ichiro, Putz, Bedard, Felix, you get the idea, need to show that they can handle the pressure. No pressure in 2007 equals success, what will pressure in 2008 equal?