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February 10, 2009

Team Health Reports

Seattle Mariners

by Brad Wochomurka

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SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Head Trainer: Rick Griffin
Player Days Lost: 453
Dollars Lost: $7 million
Injury Cost: $18.2 million

Trend: Neutral. The Mariners really haven't been hit by many major injuries over the last three years, and the most significant ones they had (to Erik Bedard and J.J. Putz) both came last season. Give Rick Griffin and his staff credit for handling Putz with care, allowing him to get healthy, which helped the club then reap a decent return in trade. Another potential Felix Hernandez disaster was averted as well. Perhaps of bigger concern to Seattle fans is that the Mariners had the third-fewest DL days of any team, yet still lost over 100 games.

The Shape of the Season:

graph

The Big Question: David Andriesen of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asks, "Can Erik Bedard stay healthy and help the Mariners rebuild after they sold the farm to get him a year ago?"

Bedard was a disaster for the Mariners last year due to knee and hip problems, and shoulder soreness eventually ended his season in early July. However, he may be as important to their future as any player on the roster. With free agency looming, and the Mariners almost assuredly unable to re-sign him, Bedard can bring Seattle a nice package of players in trade while setting himself up for big dollars on the open market. Is that enough to keep Bedard's attitude in check? Time (and health) will tell, but this impending divorce at least got off to a good start when it was revealed that there was no structural damage to Bedard's labrum during September surgery to remove tissue and a cyst from the area. He's expected to throw with no restrictions at the start of spring training.

Fantasy Tip: Bedard may be a bargain this year depending on how far he slides on draft day in your league. This is his chance to get out of Seattle and set himself up for a nice payday after the season. Don't overpay though, but if he's still available below his value/draft projections, jump on board the bandwagon. Brandon Morrow may be a guy that gets passed over due to his eligibility as a reliever in most leagues; use that to your advantage in the later rounds.

DH/C Jeff Clement: Red light This red is the main reason the Mariners are expected to keep three catchers on the roster. A sore left knee, the result of a season of wear and tear, got the best of Clement at the end of last year. He had it 'scoped in the offseason, but still figures to see his share of games behind the plate. He'll spend the rest of his time as the team's DH, and it will be interesting to monitor how the Mariners split his workload and what effect, if any, it has on his health and production. Seattle is doing what many think would be appropriate for the Twins' Joe Mauer, who had a similar procedure early in his career. Perhaps ten years from now, we'll know which approach worked best.

SP Felix Hernandez: Red light King Felix is a lot like Jack Bauer. We keep waiting for everything to blow up, yet there he is, still standing at the end of the day. Sure, he hits bumps along the road (a sprained ankle and sore groin contributed to a second-half decline), but maybe it's time to stop waiting for the bomb to go off and simply appreciate the results. Both his mechanics and the heavy workload for a 22-year-old keep him parked at a red light for now.

Will Carroll: To chime in on King Felix, it's important to note that we're measuring risk here, and with high risk there sometimes comes high reward. It's one thing to have a risky pitcher who's league average, and quite another to have a risky pitcher who could pick up a Cy Young. It's more likely that his arm blows up than that he takes home the silverware, but I hope you understand my point, which is that Hernandez, even with risk, is better than most pitchers.

SP Erik Bedard: Red light See today's Big Question.

SP Jarrod Washburn: Red light Washburn is a low red who really hasn't dealt with any significant injuries since 2004, but his 153 innings pitched were a four-year low, and his age (34) is a source of concern as well. A strained abdominal muscle forced him to shut things down in September. He'll be pitching for a new contract, so any small injuries could snowball if he tries to pitch through them.

SP Brandon Morrow: Red light Morrow has been healthy since being drafted in 2006, but he's also only pitched just over 170 total innings in that time. His switch to the rotation this year will come with a major workload increase. Can the Mariners actually catch a break and have a talented young starter develop without injury concerns? History says no, but here's hoping that, if handled properly, Morrow bucks the trend.

SP Ryan Rowland-Smith: Red light He's in the same situation as Morrow, though Rowland-Smith is a little further along in his conversion towards becoming a full-time starting pitcher. He threw nearly 140 innings last year, and in a perfect world could push 160-200 this season. If the Mariners can keep Morrow and Rowland-Smith in the rotation all year, it will be a big step forward for them in terms of grooming young talent.

CL Mark Lowe: Red light After an elbow injury had sidelined him for most of 2007, Lowe's 57 appearances last year were the second most on the team. A comebacker left a deep bruise on his left foot late in the season, but he had no trouble returning to the mound. Now the test is to see whether or not Lowe can put together back-to-back healthy seasons.

1B Russell Branyan: Yellow light Branyan is another player whose at-bats will be affected by where and how much Jeff Clement plays. He missed over a month late last year with the Brewers due to an oblique injury, but he did end up with his most combined at-bats in a season (Triple-A, MLB) since 2004.

C Kenji Johjima: Yellow light A 33-year-old catcher always has health concerns, and Johjima is no exception. Was wear and tear a factor in his dramatic offensive decline in '08? Johjima has a history of good health, and he'll be sharing the catching chores with Jeff Clement, so perhaps some extra rest will help him bounce back at the plate.

LF Wladimir Balentien: Yellow light With Raul Ibaņez gone, left field is wide open for Balentien or Endy Chavez to stake a claim on. Balentien has shown durability in his rise through the system, and sharing some time in left field may be the perfect way for him to ease into what the Mariners hope will be his first full big-league season.

RP Roy Corcoran: Yellow light With no set closer in Seattle, Corcoran could certainly find himself earning saves at some point this season. The yellow is the result of a career high in innings and appearances last year in addition to heavy workload expectations in 2009. His 50 games for the Mariners were 34 more than his three other stints in the bigs combined.

2B Jose Lopez Green light

SS Yuniesky Betancourt Green light

3B Adrian Beltre Green light

CF Franklin Gutierrez Green light

RF Ichiro Suzuki: Green light While he didn't miss a start in 2008 and remains one of the game's true iron men, Ichiro did shows signs of slowing down a bit. He was bothered most of the year by leg pain brought on by hamstring issues, and his stolen-base attempts dropped from 37 before the break to just 10 in the second half. The move back to right field should help some, and it's going to take a major injury for him to actually miss time, but last year might be an indication that 35-year-old Ichiro may be starting to feel his age.

Brad Wochomurka is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Brad's other articles. You can contact Brad by clicking here

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