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Jack Zduriencik: "This is going to be a challenging year for us..."

Building a champion in major league baseball is not an overnight project and Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik wasn’t being shy when he told reporters that 2012 probably won’t be the year that you see the Mariners return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

“This is going to be a challenging year at the big-league level for us,” Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik told reporters. “Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve got a young club, no matter how you shake it.”

The Mariners do have veterans in Ichiro, Chone Figgins, Brendan Ryan, and Felix Hernandez, but are expected to be led on offense by second-year second baseman Dustin Ackley (24 years old), catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero (22) and left fielder Mike Carp (25.)

Eventually, James Paxton (23) and Danny Hultzen (22) are expected to join Felix as the leaders of the rotation this season as well.

That will give Seattle a young core that could develop into contenders in 1 or 2 years, but the front office clearly isn’t shy in asking fans to be patient and not expect a miracle 2012. (Clearly Jack isn’t a believer in the Mayan calendar.)

For more on the Mariners, go to Lookout Landing