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 »This Week in History
Seattle Mariners
INSIDE PITCH

  Inside Pitch | Notes, Quotes | Roster Report | Player News

Unlike recent years, when the Mariners spent a good part of spring training auditioning young players and trying to find the right mix, the 2017 spring provided very few answers. This year's veteran-laden team will answer most of its biggest question marks as the season wears on.

Will Felix Hernandez get back to being a Cy Young contender? Will Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano continue to produce as age takes its toll? Is Yovani Gallardo ready to bounce back from the worst season of his career? Is Jarrod Dyson the answer in the leadoff spot?

They are all legitimate questions, and only time will tell whether Seattle's most important conundrums will lead to success on the field.

What Seattle did learn from spring training was that two of its youngest cornerstones first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and outfielder Mitch Haniger are on different timelines. Haniger was one of the hitting stars of the spring, while Vogelbach struggled enough that he was sent to Triple-A.

"(Vogelbach) put in a lot of work," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "but as we get closer to Opening Day, it became apparent we weren't seeing a product that is finished enough to feel great about starting the season."

It was a markedly question-free spring, which says a lot about where this franchise is. Dipoto worked the phones all winter to make a series of under-the-radar trades that helped shore up the bullpen, add some veteran presence to the rotation and give the lineup a jolt of speed. The Mariners are expecting to play a different brand of baseball, thanks to the additions of Haniger and leadoff hitter Jarrod Dyson, but the offense is still going to revolve around Cano, Cruz and third baseman Kyle Seager.

Cano and Cruz spent a good part of the spring playing at the World Baseball Classic, and the goal for them this spring was a clean bill of health. Seattle got that, so now the question is whether Cano (34) and Cruz (36) are still in their prime and capable of playing at an elite level for the entire season.

"Obviously, they're a huge part of our team our offensive club, our leadership and all that stuff," manager Scott Servais said this spring.

Hernandez has done what he can to answer all the questions that swirled after a frustrating 2016 season, but his solid spring won't matter if he can't get off to a good start when the real games begin. Hernandez is part of a leaky rotation that could easily fall apart if brittle starters such as Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton don't hold up.

Year 2 of the Servais era brings fewer question marks, and the biggest ones involve the players with the best track records. On paper, there is plenty to like about this year's Mariners.



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