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Mariners Team Health Report 2011

Seattle used to be an arm shredding factory, not unlike that wood chipper at the end of Fargo, just without the laughs and the quirky characters. It's a lesson to us that while the medical staff is ultimately responsible for player health, it's not always something they can control. Rick Griffin is still the Head Trainer in Seattle, same as he has been for over two decades, and the arm injuries have come under control. Maybe it was something they taught, maybe it was a reliance on younger pitchers, maybe it was an Indian curse for hurting Bobby Madritsch, but it was bad. Things have changed in Seattle and with one of the most valuable and potentially fragile possessions in all of sports -- the young ace pitcher -- Seattle's medical staff has acquitted itself very well despite changes in front office, field staff, and personnel. It's an object lesson in consistency, which is sometimes better than change when it comes to the Rumsfeldian "known unknowns" of sports medicine. The Mariners head into Jack Zduriencik's third season at the helm and the team seems to have taken a lesson from the Brewers on not acquiring injuries too much. It's a smart tack that allows them to focus on the important things, like Felix Hernandez.

(HEAD TRAINER: Rick Griffin; FIVE YEAR RANK: 10; 2010 RANK: 20)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
 
GREEN LIGHT
C Miguel Olivo
Olivo is actually riskier than this, but The System thinks that Olivo, who has always been platooned or a backup, will continue down this path. It's a reasonable assumption, but without much behind him, Olivo could be exposed to more workload and therefore more risk.

3B Chone Figgins
Figgins at one position might be good for his psyche and for his health, but he loses so much value as to question the worth, especially when you look at the middle infield Seattle has. If Figgins goes to Oakland, this high green goes to low yellow, though with a new staff, the team adjustment might be a bit overdone.

RF Ichiro Suzuki
Of all the remarkable things about Ichiro, the one least discussed is his durability. One theory a doctor tossed at me last year is that Ichiro is playing at about 75-80% of his physical capacity. If so, that's almost as amazing as Albert Pujols playing through all his physical problems.

SP Felix Hernandez
Hernandez increased his innings for the fifth straight season, largely due to dominance and an increasing efficiency. He passes the injury nexus, but the way he's pitched and his body type remind me more and more of Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano was great, if not Hernandez great, but began to pay a price for all those pre-nexus injuries sooner than most thought. Whoever signs Hernandez to a big free agent deal in a couple years is going to ignore than comparison entirely.

RP Brandon League
League's a great "closer-in-waiting? candidate, though the M's would probably rather have Brandon Morrow back.

Also Green:
1B Justin Smoak
2B Brendan Ryan
DH Jack Cust
 
YELLOW LIGHT
LF Michael Saunders
Saunders mixed in a bad shoulder, appendicitis, and some weak hitting during his rookie campaign. He's always shown more bat in his minor league days, but he's never shown much durability.

CF Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez had some worrying stomach issues throughout the season, but it was the midseason back issue that's the most problematic. Back problems in young speed players are a very, very bad sign.

SP Jason Vargas
Vargas had a huge jump in innings last year, but used his defense well in establishing himself as a decent mid-rotation option.

SP Doug Fister
Beavis' favorite pitcher did a good Bob Tewksbury impression over the first half of last season. The focus on defense in Seattle makes this kind of thing possible, but it was a DL stint in June that "saved? Fister from an even more massive innings increase. He's a high yellow.
 
RED LIGHT
SS Jack Wilson
Wilson hasn't been good in a while, but he also hasn't been healthy. It makes you wonder why a team would wait on him to get healthy again, knowing he's not that good. The answer also damns the team, in that his backup isn't any better and will have to be exposed.

SP Erik Bedard
Red barely seems enough here, but Bedard's actually an interesting case. The team has been very secretive about what the August surgery fixed. Some sources say he re-tore the labrum, others say it was a cuff, while still others say capsule. None of them are good and the idea that he'll be ready to pitch in April with any of those is a tough one. Given that he is throwing, the best guess is a cleanup and small labral tear. Bedard is three seasons removed from his last productive season and is the prototype for the "Lomax? pitcher. A "Lomax? is a starter who should be held under 175 innings in order to stay healthy and productive.

SP Michael Pineda
Pineda's risk is that the care the M's have taken with him will be forced aside by need. If Bedard can't go ... wait, did I say if? ... then Luke French is really the only decent and available starter, meaning Pineda will have to test the 150 inning mark, which is about as far as you'd want him to go.

CL David Aardsma
Aardsma is coming off hip surgery and is shaky for the start of the season. If he starts out the season behind, he might end up losing the role, something that could happen anyway, though that would just be a reminder that if you find one closer on the scrap heap, you ought to be able to find another. One of the failings of some scouting organizations seems to be a fear that they'll never be able to repeat the feat.
 
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