Thoughts on what looks like the Opening Day lineup
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Michael Saunders RF
Kendrys Morales DH
Michael Morse LF
Kyle Seager 3B
Justin Smoak 1B
Jesus Montero C
Dustin Ackley 2B
Brendan Ryan SS
Brandon Maurer P
The skipper has Gutierrez leading off, as expected against a left-hander in Jeff Francis. But he’s going with Saunders second and dropped Seager to fifth, which moves Smoak to sixth in what certainly is a much deeper order than a year ago.
Guti and Sauders batted 1-2 on Wednesday against the Dodgers, but Seager wasn’t in the lineup that day and there were a number of backups playing. This looks more like what Wedge intends to roll out on Monday night against the A’s, particularly since they’ll again face a lefty in Brett Anderson.
Wedge has indicated Gutierrez will likely leadoff against southpaws and Saunders against righthanders. So with this new setup, it could be a situation where those two just flip-flop depending on the opposing starter, while everyone else stays slotted somewhat the same.
This is a pretty balanced batting order, alternating between right, left, switch, right, left, switch, right, left, right.
Some fans will be surprised to see Ackley batting eighth as well, though that’s something that has been coming since Wedge dropped him out of the leadoff role and went with Guti and Saunders there a couple weeks ago.
The fact Ackley now slots in so much lower speaks volumes about the depth of this lineup compared to last year’s. And it’s not like Ackley has had a lousy spring. He’s been pretty hot lately and is batting .396. (Here’s a link to all the Spring Training stats).
Of course, not everyone will play every game and, in fact, Wedge has already said he’ll bring Gutierrez along slowly in the early going as he’s been having some leg tightness and he doesn’t want to push him to a point where he can’t play at all. Guti has great value, when he’s playing, and they’ll just be cautious with him.
While that’s a difficult situation, it will allow Wedge to get his other two outfielders — Raul Ibanez and presumably Jason Bay — some playing time as well. He’d also like to use Robert Andino more this year than he did with Munenori Kawasaki last year. And Montero will catch the majority of games, but Kelly Shoppach also will get a few games each week to keep Montero fresh.
Wedge gets criticized by some for not sticking with a consistent lineup, but he’d get criticized by others if he never used his bench. Every manager tries to keep players sharp and use all their weapons. Lou Piniella used to make it a point to play everyone early in order to keep them tuned up as they came out of Spring Training.
This particular Mariners team seems to have a lot of options and that’s a good thing. It’s also a far different lineup than a year ago when Ichiro Suzuki was batting third to start the season. This team has some legitimate thump with Morse and Morales, who have 15 homers between them this spring.
Today also offers a chance to see young Maurer in his final tuneup before making his Major League debut on Thursday. The game will be televised on ROOT Sports and MLB.TV at 12:05 p.m. PT.
The Mariners then head to Oakland, where they’ll work out Sunday and then open Monday night against the A’s. So, yup, here we go …