Who Plays First?

That's a dumb question. Justin Smoak plays first! And when he's unavailable, somebody else plays first, like, I don't know, Alex Liddi, or Kyle Seager. For the Seattle Mariners. For the Texas Rangers, Mitch Moreland plays first. For the Chicago Cubs, Jeff Baker and Bryan LaHair play first. Bryan LaHair plays first for the Chicago Cubs.

But this isn't actually about first base, because that question's already settled, for now. This is about something else. Last November, towards the beginning of the offseason, Jack Zduriencik traded Josh Lueke and apparently a PTBNL or cash to the Rays in exchange for John Jaso. Jaso was 28 and he was coming off an ugly season, but he was a not-old catcher with a .340 OBP in nearly 700 Major League plate appearances. He looked like a good get for a talented reliever with what we might charitably label as "character issues".

Jaso has yet to play in 2012. He's buried behind not only Miguel Olivo, but also Jesus Montero, who was acquired much later in the offseason and who the Mariners still think of as a catcher, even though he keeps starting at DH. Montero isn't the issue. We want Montero to catch. Montero could have a lot of value as a catcher. Olivo is more the issue. Miguel Olivo is very nice and I'm sure that pitchers like working with him, and it's not like he has literally zero skills, but Olivo has arguably the worst batting approach in the league and he blocks pitches in the dirt like he thinks the balls are full of goo and he doesn't want to get any on him. I think we'd all like to see Olivo catch a little less.

Later in the offseason, Jack Zduriencik addressed the pitching staff by signing Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma was coming off a season interrupted by shoulder weakness, for which he didn't receive anything in the way of significant treatment, which greatly lowered his price. But he had a good track record and just the offseason before was seeking a lot of money, so he looked like a good get for a low base salary with incentives. He looked like a #3 or #4 starter, and he said that his shoulder felt fine.

Iwakuma has yet to play in 2012. Initially we figured he'd making the starting rotation out of camp, but then Blake Beavan took his job, and the team kept Erasmo Ramirez around to fill a similar role in the bullpen. Iwakuma is active. He is not on the disabled list, which you might have figured, understandably. He's just doing his best Jeff Gray impression at the moment. Or Eric Wedge is doing his best Eric Wedge impression at the moment. It's not like it was up to Jeff Gray to not pitch. I think. Incidentally, Jeff Gray made the 2012 Twins, and has already made two appearances. The Mariners claimed Jeff Gray last May 13. He made his second appearance on May 29. (He made his third appearance on June 11, and his fourth appearance on July 9. Holy god damn. How are we not still hung up on this?)

So the question is: who's going to get into a Mariners game first? Will it be John Jaso, or will it be Hisashi Iwakuma? It doesn't count if Iwakuma warms up in the bullpen and then doesn't enter, although maybe it should. The vibe I get is that neither is an Eric Wedge favorite, presumably because of spring training, where Jaso wasn't awesome and Iwakuma wasn't awesome. But one shouldn't expect Jaso to be awesome, and Iwakuma threw 90 while recording 11 strikeouts and three walks. Neither was a spring training disaster, on the surface, and they're both on the roster, right now.

Your best guess! This is serious!

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