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Seattle Mariners: 5 Things Jesus Montero Needs to Improve to Become a Superstar

Jesus Montero is one of the most valuable players in the Seattle Mariners organization, but he has a ways to go and grow before he’s recognized as one of the most valuable players in the entire league.

The M’s paid a lot to get him, giving up Michael Pineda, the flamethrowing Dominican, and Jose Campos, a younger pitcher with high potential, but they also received right-handed starting pitcher Hector Noesi.

At this point, the Mariners appear to be the big winners, with Campos still in the minors, Pineda on the disabled list and Noesi and Montero combining on April 14th for a nice Seattle win (Noesi went eight innings, allowing no runs on five hits, and Montero batted in three of the team’s four runs.)

While Montero has looked pretty nice at the plate thus far, he hasn’t seen a lot of time behind the plate, which is where he can impact his full, intended effect.

So, what’s it going to take for him to become the next MLB superstar? Here are five things he needs to work on if he wants to reach stardom.

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Seattle Mariners vs Oakland Athletics Live Blog: Play-by-Play Analysis, Reaction

The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics will kick off the 2012 MLB regular season in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 28th at 6:10 AM EST.

The AL West division rivals have spent the last few days in Japan, hosting baseball clinics, visiting tsunami relief sites and playing exhibition matches against Japanese ball clubs.

The international tours for the M’s and A’s will culminate in a two-game series that will mark the beginning of the regular season. The A’s are listed as the home team, though there obviously isn’t any home-field advantage for either club.

While these two teams aren’t the best that the MLB has to offer, they do generate quite a lot of buzz in Japan due to the presence of countrymen Hisashi Iwakuma, Munenori Kawasaki, Kurt Suzuki and most of all Ichiro Suzuki, who is idolized in his home country.

Both teams are looking to improve a bit from last year with key additions including Jesus Montero for the Mariners and Yoenis Cespedes for the Athletics.

This should be an exciting game to watch due to the supercharged atmosphere that the Tokyo Dome and its devoted fans help to create.

Since the game is being played in Japan, it starts at 7:10 PM JST, which unfortunately translates into 6:10 AM for East coasters and 3:10 AM for West coasters. It’ll be a drag to get up early, but don’t let timing prevent you from tuning in to the MLB 2012 season opener!

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Five Reasons Why the Seattle Mariners Can Still Win 81 Games in 2011

The Seattle Mariners haven’t had the start some fans were hoping for: just four wins through 13 games, but there’s no reason for worry.  They’ve had several inauspicious factors working against them early, and there are a couple of key elements that we’ll see come out as the season develops.

They have had a few difficult series matchups [(1) the young, talented Oakland A’s, (2) the 2010 AL Champion Texas Rangers, and (3) the Cleveland Indians, who were coming off a sweep of the World Series favorite Red Sox] that definitely hindered their ability to break out of last year’s slump. 

Another possible contribution to the Mariners’ sub-par opening is a lack of chemistry in the starting lineup. The nine guys who we usually see hitting for the Mariners don’t have the necessary trust that we often see in a winning team. 

Most fans and analysts have labeled 2011 as a rebuilding year for Seattle because they have a pretty new team, but I’m not throwing in the towel yet.  Here are five reasons why we won’t see the Mariners at the bottom of the AL West.

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MLB Preview: Seattle Mariners’ Opening Homestand Against Indians and Blue Jays

The Seattle Mariners need to learn from their mistakes as they prepare for their 2011 home opener.  After being swept by the Texas Rangers, they sit at 2-4 and in third place in the AL West, which is shaping up to be a difficult division.

The Rangers have the hottest bats in baseball, so for Seattle’s pitching to hold them to an average of 5.7 runs per game was pretty good. Boston pitchers allowed 8.7 runs per game in their three-game series with the Rangers, and the Red Sox are AL East favorites.

Erik Bedard looked great for his first start in more than a year. He had good control of his pitches and they were effective for the most part.

Rookie Michael Pineda had an impressive start. Giving up just three runs to the stacked Rangers’ batting order in six innings is pretty good. His pitches were crisp and we can expect a lot out of him as the year progresses.

King Felix even struggled with the hot hitters in Texas, letting in two runs over seven innings on six hits and three walks. Texas will inevitably cool down soon, though, and Mariner pitchers will have stronger starts.

The Mariners head back to Seattle for a day of rest and then a 10:10 p.m. EST matchup against the Cleveland Indians. The starters will certainly enjoy being back home at SAFECO, one of the biggest pitcher’s parks in the country, where they can settle down and work later into games.


Friday, April 8

Jason Vargas (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs.Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 9.45 ERA)

Jason Vargas threw an awesome first game against the Oakland A’s, going 6.2 innings while allowing just one run. Vargas looks to solidify his second spot in the rotation behind the King. Carlos Carrasco had a shaky first start, giving up seven runs. The Mariners will look for a way to get their bats on the ball and give Vargas some support.

Pick: Mariners


Saturday, April 9

Doug Fister (0-1, 3.18 ERA) vs. Justin Masterson (1-0, 1.29 ERA)

Doug Fister looks to improve upon his last start at SAFECO Field, where he historically pitches much better. He’ll be up against Justin Masterson of the Indians, who had a quality first start, allowing just one run through seven, although he didn’t have any strikeouts. Strikeouts have been plaguing the Mariners, so a few innings exempt from K’s will definitely benefit Seattle’s hitting.

Pick: Indians


Sunday, April 10

Erik Bedard (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (1-0, 1.29 ERA)

Erik Bedard looks to redeem himself in just his second start since the turn of the decade. Josh Tomlin looked good in his last start, holding the powerful Red Sox lineup to just one run through seven innings. This should shape up to be an intense pitching duel.

Pick: Mariners


Monday, April 11

Michael Pineda (0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jesse Litsch (0-0, 0.0 ERA)

Michael Pineda also looks to prove himself in the second start of his rookie season. He showed good potential against the Rangers, and he’ll get a little bit of a break at SAFECO against the weaker Blue Jays lineup. Jesse Litsch will make his first start of the season.

Pick: Mariners


Tuesday, April 12

Felix Hernandez (1-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. Ricky Romero (1-0, 1.42 ERA)

The King has had two quality outings thus far, and there’s no reason he can’t continue.  He’ll have an easier job against a less potent Blue Jays offense and in his home park.  Ricky Romero has also been looking strong.

Pick: Mariners


Wednesday, April 13

Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. Kyle Drabek (1-0, 1.29 ERA)

Kyle Drabek looked great in his first start. This will be another good matchup of young pitchers.  It will depend on how each team is hitting. Hopefully, with the predicted three-game winning streak coming in, the M’s will have some momentum to back Vargas up. Otherwise, it seems like Drabek might win this duel.

Pick: Jays

A projected 4-2 homestand would be a nice recovery from the sweep in Texas and would please the SAFECO crowd, an important part of the season. Mariners’ fans have been ridiculously loyal, even when they probably shouldn’t be.

Whenever I see a game on TV (unfortunately, I live in Virginia), there’s usually a pretty full crowd. Some rewarded faith would be a great morale booster.


Feel free to add your thoughts about the matchups in the comments section; I haven’t considered a lot of the variables that go into any given game.

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Seattle Mariners’ First Loss Comes as a Reality Check

This afternoon, to our dismay, we saw the Mariners revert back to last year’s style of play: low run production, a shaky bullpen and carelessness at the plate.

We should probably admit to ourselves that this is the way the season will progress, but it’s easier just to make legitimate excuses that could possibly explain the woes of the Mariners.

We can attribute today’s loss to a couple of things. One, an unfavorable pitching matchup. Two, an improvement in the A’s’ play.

As opposed to the first two pitching matchups, this one heavily favored Oakland.

In the opener, we saw the Cy Young-winning Felix Hernandez against the relatively young, but talented Trevor Cahill. Felix’s complete game versus Cahill’s early exit demonstrated the lopsidedness of that matchup.

The second game had the potential to be a lot closer, but Jason Vargas looked great, like he did at the end of last season, and while Brett Anderson pitched well, the A’s bullpen threw it away.

Today, the Athletics put forth their promising young lefty, Gio Gonzalez, to pitch against Doug Fister of the Mariners. Fister had a rough year last year, winning just six out of 28 games, allowing an average of 4.11 runs per nine innings and striking out just 93 in 171 innings.

This mismatch was quite apparent when Gonzalez went through seven, allowing just one run, and Fister left after 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits.

Additionally, Gonzalez was luckier than his fellow starters in that the A’s defense picked it up. No more slipshod throws or unwise decisions, and fewer errors.

Without these advantages, the Mariners had more trouble finding ways to score runs; they had already become accustomed to scoring runs off walks and errors. Without run support, Fister was a lost cause, and the Athletics made quick work.

Seattle’s bullpen didn’t hold up well either. Some of the new younger guys didn’t perform up to their expectations, but let’s hope they just need a few appearances to get settled in.

Overall, this was a rough experience for the Mariners, but a necessary one. They need to move on and prepare for a tough series in Texas against the undefeated Rangers.

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Seattle Mariners Vs. Oakland Athletics: Patience at the Plate and Solid Defense

Going into opening day for the Athletics and the Mariners, most people were expecting a pitching duel between Felix Hernandez (13-12, 232 K’s, 2.72 ERA, Cy Young winner in 2010) and Trevor Cahilll (18-8, 118 K’s, 2.97 ERA). 

The first three innings didn’t exactly live up to these standards. Cahill was up to 65 pitches after three and the Mariners hitting was effectively working the count on him.  He looked a little shaky, throwing several pitches way out of the zone and walking in a run.

Felix looked a little more steady, even after letting up a two-run shot to one of Oakland’s newest players, Josh Willingham. He retired seven in a row after the minor foible. Before the game, Felix said that if he could work through the first inning without too much trouble, he would be able to lock in to his shut-down mode for several more innings.

The biggest factor for both pitchers, however, was defense.  Not to point the finger, but Kevin Kouzmanoff made several minor errors/bobbles that cost Cahill baserunners and converted to a run for the usually run-deprived Mariner offense.

The Mariners defense was much sturdier, as it should be, since fielding has always been a priority in choosing players. The guys in the infield, notably Brendan Ryan and Chone Figgins, definitely helped Felix keep his pitch count down and keep runners off the bases.

In the past, a focus on defense has been regarded as next-to-useless for a team struggling to rebuild, but it proved useful in this 2011 season opener.

In addition to wary fielding, Seattle looked very sharp at the plate—it took more than half of the pitches from Cahill. Eric Wedge must have said something in the clubhouse before the game and it payed off. Cahill ended up exiting the game after two outs in the fifth inning with 105 pitches, roughly 22 pitches per inning.

The Mariners biggest problem was stranding runners. While they did receive lots of help from Oakland’s pitching and defense in the form of walks and errors, they still failed to capitalize, leaving 11 on.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Felix received legitimate offensive support, but he appreciated it, nonetheless. Brendan Ryan ran the bases well, advancing on a sacrifice bunt from Jack Wilson and then a single from Ichiro. 

Notably, during Ichiro’s at bat, he tried to bunt with a runner on second. As the MLB Network commentators so eloquently put it: “He did one of those double things.” They were referring to two unusual circumstances occurring on the play: 1) Ichiro doesn’t often bunt because he can get on base by other means, and 2) there was only a man on second, with one out.  Regardless, Ichiro hit Ryan in, only to be caught stealing on a pickoff move.

Chone Figgins homered to left on the next pitch, making Ichiro and the rest of the dugout cringe at the loss of an insurance run. Even without Ichiro, Figgins’s homer set Felix up for the win, 3-2.

From there, things went downhill for the A’s. Several more errors and poor decisions led to three more runs, upping the score to 6-2. Hernandez was confounded, to say the least—he had no idea what to do with a four-run lead.

But the King proved himself a quick learner, taking his lead and running with it. Felix swept through the final three innings without any trouble.

The telling factors in this one were Oakland’s five errors, Seattle’s zero, Oakland taking a base on balls zero times and Seattle walking seven times.

Mariners fans have reason for optimism; King Felix looked strong (CG, no walks, five K’s and just 94 pitches), the defense was consistent (zero errors), and the offense was surprisingly effective (six runs?!), exhibiting both patience and power. 

Maybe, after all, the Mariners will be in contention for the AL West title.

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Best of the Best: Top 7 Seattle Mariners Team Commercials

Every year the Mariners come out with a new set of five or six commercials in which they feature their most exciting players.  This year we got to meet Larry Bernandez and watch Ichiro hit tic-tacs.  The marketing team always comes up with something pretty clever.

Here’s a look at some of the best:

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Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees: 2011 Chapter Starts on April 8

Every year, there is a lot of buildup for the first Yankees/Red Sox matchup.  Whenever the two AL East powerhouses meet, excitement is sure to ensue—whether it’s a brawl, an extra-inning thriller or a pitching duel. 

These two teams have been dominant forces in the league for as long as anyone can remember—the Yankees, with their 27 World Series’ titles, and the Red Sox, constantly lurking in the shadow of their evil empire rival. 

The last time that neither team was in the playoffs was in 1993, when only two teams from each league were selected for postseason play.  Since then, after the creation of the divisional series in 1995 (there was no postseason in 1994), New York and Boston have been cruising into the playoffs year after year.

Throughout the ’90s, the Yankees were mostly the better team, winning three world championships.  But after the turn of the century, we began to see a stronger Red Sox team that showed they were ready to break the curse. 

The 2004 ALCS was one of the most memorable series for all sports fans. The Cardinals had no chance at stopping the Sox’s momentum in the World Series. 

Winning again in 2007, Boston establish itself as a force to be reckoned with under manager Terry Francona. 

It didn’t take long for the Yankees to counter, though.  In 2009, Hideki Matsui led New York to its 27th championship.

It was a nice break to see Texas as the American League’s representative last year, but both teams are revamped and ready to go this year.

Boston will see the return of veterans Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury—who all suffered injuries last year that hindered Boston’s offensive potential.  The Red Sox had a productive offseason as well, acquiring both speedster Carl Crawford and proven slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Since Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon left, David Ortiz has been struggling. But with Youkilis and Gonzalez preceding him, David Ortiz should return to old form. 

Undoubtedly, this lineup will provide some trouble for the Yankee bullpen.

But Jonathon Papelbon and the Red Sox pitching will not be at ease.  Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter lead off for the Yankees—two guys that you will see on base in the first inning a lot this year.  Following them are Teixeira and A-Rod, two All-Star sluggers.  And if they can’t get the job done, perhaps the best No. 5 hitter in baseball comes up, Robinson Cano

Cano finished with brilliant numbers last year: 29 HRs, 109 RBI, a .319 average and a .915 OPS.  His combination of average and power make him the perfect No. 5 hitter—dangerous in all situations.

This year is shaping up to be a close race between the Red Sox and Yankees. Personally, I think Boston is going win the division (that is, if the Rays and Jays stay quiet).  Of the 19 games played between these two, I foresee a 12-7 split in the Sox’s favor—mostly due to their maturing bullpen, supercharged hitting and young pitching.

Note: Keep Clay Bucholz in the Cy Young tracker.

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