We all make so much of a fuss over the opening day roster. Will there be any surprise additions? Are any should-be “locks” at risk of missing the cut? If the Seattle Mariners can’t trade Nick Franklin by the start of the season, won’t they have just wasted a perfectly valuable asset? Don’t look now, but it’s April 16th, and the roster isn’t the same as it was seventeen days ago.
Blake Beavan is here, for instance. Yuck. Hector Noesi will be in uniform for tonight’s game, but he’ll be in the Rangers dugout. Lucas Luetge is here, and as of tonight, so is Nick Franklin. Yes, the very Nick Franklin who the Mariners “needed” to trade before March 31st has already found his way onto the roster that had no spot for him a couple weeks ago.
If you want a short and simple reason why Nick Franklin is here, it’s because Logan Morrison is down with an injury. If you want an explanation of why Franklin in particular has received the callup, it’s because of his .394/.469/.744 line through 49 plate appearances for the Tacoma Rainiers. And if you’re wondering where he’ll play, huh, that’s a really good question.
Remember how Franklin was messing around in right field toward the end of spring training, after it became completely clear that Brad Miller was the team’s shortstop? Most assumed that would continue in the minors, but the M’s instead chose to keep Franklin exclusively in the middle infield. Brad Miller has been slumping, of course, but then so has everyone except Dustin Ackley and Mike Zunino (and Robinson Cano, I guess, if you ignore the lack of power). There’s speculation that Franklin might play a little outfield, where he could be no worse than Morrison was in limited duty. He might steal some at bats from Miller, and I wouldn’t bet against a little DH time. The coming days will tell, of course.
Perhaps the real reason for this mini-shakeup is the Mariners 5-0 loss to the Robbie Ross-led Texas Rangers last night. In previewing this game, I noted that it could easily devolve into a brutish slugfest. For two batters in the second, it did, but aside from that the game seemed more like something you’d see at, I don’t know, Petco Park. Big, bad Blake Beavan made the spot start for Seattle and was predictably awful, with more home runs than strikeouts in four innings of abbreviated work.
Prince Fielder and Kevin Kouzmanoff (?!?!) went back-to-back in the second for the Rangers, and if there’s any silver lining to a Kevin Kouzmanoff home run it’s that it was the last run allowed by Beavan. Only two earned runs in four innings pitched almost sounds okay, given the starter. Beavan exited with a stiff shoulder and then admitted post-game that he’d pitched the whole game through discomfort, so there’s that. McClendon has said that he doesn’t know who will start in the fifth spot, what with Beavan being Beavan and Taijuan Walker a late scratch last night with Tacoma after his shoulder tightened up. I’m only going to mention that once so as to avoid thinking about it, because there’s nothing scarier about Mariners baseball right now than Walker’s shoulder. Those shoulder things are just the worst.
Give Robbie Ross all the credit in the world for this one. Whoever Ross is pitched 7 2/3 innings without a walk, allowing five singles and striking out two. He leaned heavily on the grounder, getting sixteen outs in the dirt to only three in the air. As bad as Beavan was and is, it’s hard to pin this loss on him when the Mariners did nothing at all against a starter you’re on the verge of forgetting about forever.
Tonight’s 5:05pm series finale is the game everyone’s been waiting for all season. Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish take the mound in what’s quickly become one of the game’s most anticipated ace showdowns. It could be argued that these two are the best pitchers in the league, or world, and each is off to a fantastic start to the season. Felix has kicked it up a notch, as we’ve discussed, and Darvish came off the DL looking completely nasty. If you’re working late, eat spoiled meat for lunch. Or pretend to. Find your way home, is what I’m saying. This is a game worth watching.