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Fewer than 24 hours after getting their asses handed to them by Oakland, the Mariners found themselves on the business end of a 15-4 throttling, courtesy of the Anaheim Angels. For what feels like the billionth time this spring (only a slight exaggeration), nobody pitched well and Richie Sexson was really the only guy supplying much in the way of offense. Which actually sounds a lot like last year, at least when Felix wasn't starting.

Fringe Bullpen Candidates And Their ST ERA's:

Scott Atchison: 14.54
Jake Woods: 8.38
Kevin Appier: 2.84
Dave Burba: 16.22
Sean Green: 11.37
Luis Gonzalez: 9.00
Francisco Cruceta: 4.50
Clint Nageotte: 6.23
Jeff Harris: 8.10
George Sherrill?: 16.50

There's one good ERA in the entire group, and it scares the hell out of me. Kevin Appier:Mariners as Left Eye:Andre Rison's house.

The other way to look at it, of course, is that while the guys near the bottom of the depth chart have had awful springs, the locks have been anywhere from acceptable to terrific, with Julio Mateo being the only pitcher guaranteed a roster spot to have an ERA over 4. And while I realize that ERA is an awful way to judge performance, particularly over such limited samples, it's really quick, and shut up. In case you were curious, Hernandez/Moyer/Washburn/Pineiro/Meche have combined for an FIP right around 4.00 with a decent K/BB. I'm not thrilled, but I'm certainly not disappointed.

Jose Lopez went 1-3 after being named the team's official starting second baseman. As much as I believe that he was essentially guaranteed the spot all along, Vina and Bloomquist batting a combined .178 with two extra-base hits probably didn't make the decision any tougher. The lesson here is that if you're dead set on establishing an ST battle for a roster spot, you'd better be damn sure that you have at least two players willing and able to participate.

In other position player news, Joe Borchard started in center (again) and went 1-4 the day after blasting a home run off Chad Gaudin. I bring this up not because I wish to further discuss the team's new acquisition, but because I wanted to find a decent segue into a quick talk about Jeremy Reed and didn't know how else to do it. The reason I am so disappointed by Reed's injury is that I have fairly high hopes for this year's Mariners, and a significant improvement by Reed at the plate is a big reason why. When I say that I expect the team to win 80+ games, it's not with a center fielder who has an OPS in the .670's; it's with a quality glove whose OPS is somewhere around or above .750 instead. I don't think Borchard is going to be a better player than Reed in either department this year, so as long as we're without our starter, the team's in worse shape than I'd like it to be, and their record will suffer as a result. And given that this is a Mariner team who needs all the wins it can get to have a shot at contending, it sucks to know that we might already be giving one or two away before the season even starts.

It's not a long-term issue; Reed should heal up and be fine, if a little anxious around walls. It's a selfish issue, in that I want this team to be as good as possible because I don't think it's okay to write off its chances of contending so soon just because they've sucked two years in a row. And this is the heart of the situation - people who think the Mariners could contend are probably more shaken up by Reed's injury than people who think that there's no hope. Those people are more likely to be looking forward to a few weeks of Joe Borchard in center, because they see this as a rebuilding year anyway, and why not find out what we have on our hands? Given the preceeding stance on the season, it's a perfectly legitimate opinion to have. It's just one that I don't happen to share.

In other news, Felix Hernandez has been scratched from his scheduled Wednesday start due to a minor case of shin splints. He'll reduce his running workload from "none at all" to "eating chips while the other guys jog foul poles" until it heals up. The last thing we need is for Felix to screw up his mechanics even more by trying to pitch through pain.

Gil Meche against the Rangers tomorrow afternoon.