With pitchers and catchers reporting on Sunday (wait, what?) the excitement of Major League Baseball and the Seattle Mariners (no, I'm being serious about 'excitement') is just around the corner. Yes, we've already resigned ourselves to a season of mediocrity and that's fine, I guess, as long as there is some sort of tangible improvement and a feeling of forward movement with the state of the roster. Spring Training will be our first chance to get a glimpse of this.
We'll make sure to be watching parts of the young nucleus of the team in Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and Kyle Seagar. Montero is the new kid on the block and a great many things are expected from him. Can he play catcher, the position they're hoping he'll play? Can he be that power hitter in the middle of the lineup the Mariners have been missing? Justin Smoak looks to improve from last year after facing some tough times at the plate and with the death of his father. Can he bounce back? Can he prove to be the guy the Mariners thought he was when they traded Cliff Lee for him?
We'll be looking for marked improvement in Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez. Possibly realized potential in Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, and Adam Moore. Figgins may be moving to the leadoff spot and if that happens can he get his career back on track? With Guti's stomach ailment apparently healed and 15 pounds of muscle added, can one of the majors' best center fielders step it up at the plate?
As for the pitching, it's always fun to watch Felix Hernandez on the mound. Period. So there's that. We'll also get to see a whole slew of youngsters - Blake Beavan, Danny Hultzen, Hector Noesi, Charlie Furbush, and wily vets like George Sherrill and Shawn Camp. We'll get to see some players trying to resurrect their careers or come back from major injury, most notably Hong-Chih Kuo and Hisashi Iwakuma.
It should be one of the more interesting Spring Training sessions in recent years and I'm personally really looking forward to it. We'll bring you round-the-clock coverage of what's going on down in Peoria right here, so stay tuned. Ok, maybe just 'around-the-clock' for that one game that the Mariners are playing in Japan.