Forget 2022, we’re dubbing this year the “Year of Ichiro,” as the Mariners plan to honor the iconic Ichiro Suzuki this year with his Mariners Hall of Fame Weekend among other special events. Today the Mariners made a final few cuts from the spring training roster, throwing into relief what looks like the group they’ll bring to Minnesota for the season opener this Thursday. Here’s how the Mariners project to look on Opening Day in this, the Year of Ichiro:
Hamilton and Souza Jr. were the two remaining question marks in determining the Mariners’ bench, but it looks like neither will make the team. The spring training roster is now at 32 players, and once players are moved to the IL—Ken Giles (finger), Evan White (sports hernia), Casey Sadler (shoulder), and Kyle Lewis (cries)—that should give the Mariners the 28 players they need for the Opening Day roster.
Starting Pitchers (5):
LHP Robbie Ray, RHP Logan Gilbert, LHP Marco Gonzales, RHP Chris Flexen, RHP Matt Brash
This is the projected rotation order, with Gilbert taking the #2 slot to break up the two lefties in the rotation and newly-named starter Matt Brash rounding things out. This rotation offers a ton of different looks for hitters, from Ray’s 180-degree turnaround to Gilbert’s Oops! All Elbows extension to Brash’s ball-hiding delivery.
Diego Castillo, Matt Festa, Andrés Muñoz, Yohan Ramírez, Sergio Romo, Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, Erik Swanson, Justus Sheffield (LHP), Anthony Misiewicz (LHP)
Festa is the surprise here; the 29-year-old has struck out seven in just 4.2 innings this spring after a strong performance in Triple-A Tacoma last year (31 Ks in 21 innings with a 2.95 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL). Festa hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2019 due to TJ surgery and the cancellation of the minors in 2020, but it looks like the Mariners are ready to give him another shot at the bigs.
Tom Murphy, Cal Raleigh, Luis Torrens
The Mariners will carry three catchers, at least to start the year, although Torrens, as the strongest hitter of the three, will likely see time both at first base and DH in order to get his bat into the lineup. It will be interesting to see how much run the team gives him at catcher, but he’s hit well enough over the spring to force the team to make a spot for him somewhere, and equally interesting to see what the team does once rosters contract in May.
J.P. Crawford, Ty France, Adam Frazier, Dylan Moore, Eugenio Suárez, Abraham Toro
The team technically lists Moore and Frazier (???) as “INF/OF” but if I see Frazier and his 77% success rate in left, I will be throwing hands. (Dylan Moore and his +5 OAA in LF can stay in the superutility role.) Interestingly the team doesn’t list Toro as part of the INF/OF crew, although we’ve also seen Toro get a few reps in left which has been...adventurous, but he’s another one whose bat has to get in the lineup somehow.
Mitch Haniger, Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez, Jesse Winker
As strong as the Mariners infield defense projects to be, the outfield defense should be—wait, I already used the word “adventurous”? Yikes. Julio appears to have edged out Kelenic for the center field job, with the Mariners willing to bank on Julio’s stronger arm and tolerate some rookie mistakes from him for now. Let’s set realistic expectations: Julio is going to make mistakes in unfamiliar big-league outfields; he is going to lose balls over his head at times and make bad reads. The hope is his superior athleticism will help cancel out a lot of those rookie mistakes, and his innate ability to learn and adjust will clean up the rest. It’s important for Julio to be successful so that Kelenic can settle into left, and Jesse Winker can settle into a regular DH role, but prepare yourselves accordingly: an outfield full of Gold Glovers, this will not be.