I thought about doing this as three separate posts, but I also thought about melting jelly beans in my coffee this morning, so for me it's just another Don't Go With Your First Instinct Wednesday, to be followed by my tenth consecutive You Should Probably Apologize Thursday. Anyone want to trade brains? Does anyone want to trade brains.
David Aardsma made his fifth appearance of the spring tonight, and to show for it, he's got five walks, one strikeout, and an ERA over 12. His results have started to frighten a bit of the fan base, but I think more disconcerting than a handful of runs in some meaningless ballgames is the following velocity data since Aardsma returned from his groin issue:
March 12th: 91.5mph average fastball
March 17th: 92.8mph
March 20th: 92.2mph
March 24th: 92.7mph
It is of vital importance that you not get too freaked out over this. It's March, and Aardsma's only a few weeks removed from a minor injury. There's also the possibility that there's some difference between the PITCHfx systems set up in Arizona and the big league ballparks. However, this is something for all of us to keep an eye on going forward, as it seems clear that the DA isn't yet in peak form. We shouldn't expect him to be, but he ought to be getting closer, so we'd all like to see him make some progress. If he's still missing a mile at the end of ST, whether it be due to timidity or something else, that's not going to be good for the team.
- Congratulations to Jason Vargas for unofficially sewing up a rotation slot with five shutout innings against San Diego. What you see from Vargas is what you get - he's a finesse lefty with a good changeup, and he's not going to suddenly start breaking off a hard slider or anything. But I do think it is imperative for Mariner fans to remember that Vargas went straight from zero innings in 2008 to 143.1 innings in 2009. It took its toll. He had nothing left on his fastball by the time September rolled around, and the likelihood is that he just about ran out of steam before that.
Of course, you could argue either way, here. On the one hand, Vargas might have a little better stamina this time around, but on the other, that kind of jump might put him in danger of a pseudo-Verducci Effect. I don't know which it's going to be. But I'm open to the possibility that, as predictable a skillset as Jason Vargas' really is, he might surprise a few people this season. Remember that, through his first eight big league starts a year ago, he walked 11 and whiffed 27. I know Jason Vargas isn't sexy, and I know he's no one's idea of a reliable starter, but he's not a bad arm.
- So both Larry LaRue and Mike Salk are hinting at the possibility that Mike Sweeney now has the inside track for a roster spot come Opening Day, presumably at the expense of Ryan Garko, who still has options. Or rather, Salk is hinting, while LaRue picks it up and pokes you in the eye with it. This, of course, hasn't been confirmed, and we won't know for sure until the end of ST. But all spring I've been saying Sweeney doesn't have a chance, and now it seems I couldn't have been more wrong.
In a lot of ways, this is remarkably similar to last year's battle between Sweeney and Chris Shelton. The difference between the two guys at the plate isn't enormous, neither really offers any sort of positional value, and Garko can be stashed away in the minors. If the coaching staff really believes that Sweeney's got a lot left in the tank, they can make this happen. The issue, though, is two-fold:
1) It sure seems likely that Garko's a better overall fit
2) What do you do if Sweeney doesn't cut it?
As far as the first is concerned, Garko's 29 and free of health concerns, while Sweeney is 36 and less free. Garko isn't nimble on his feet, but he can at least play a passable first base, whereas Sweeney has yet to see game action in the field. From a versatility standpoint, Garko makes more sense, and from a statistical standpoint, Garko makes more sense too. Keeping Sweeney would seem to put a lot of stock into ST performance and a lot of stock into chemistry.
And as far as the second goes, what if Sweeney's hitting .200 at the end of May? How do you cut Mike Sweeney? It's not quite like cutting Ken Griffey Jr, but a team that loves Mike Sweeney for his personality is going to have a hell of a time making him go away if he sucks, or - worse - if he's mediocre, and that could be a problem, unless you're a firm believer in the 60-day-DL/hang-out-in-the-clubhouse-until-October approach. The point is, it's an obstacle. Replacing Mike Sweeney with Ryan Garko midseason wouldn't be like replacing, I dunno, Ryan Garko with someone else. There are complications.
If Mike Sweeney makes this team, it won't be the end of the world. With that said, I think the evidence is stronger than it was a year ago that such a decision would hurt the team more than it would help it.