Mariners GM believes team can turn around after slow start

BOTHELL, Wash. (AP) Even after all the struggles the Seattle Mariners endured during the first month of the season, general manager Jerry Dipoto is preaching patience.

''We are 11-15. It is what it is, but the American League hasn't left us behind,'' Dipoto said. ''There are a lot of good teams, on paper good teams, that have not played well through the first month of the season.''

Dipoto spoke to the regional Associated Press Sports Editors chapter Monday after Seattle wrapped up a 4-5 road trip that left the club 11-15 returning home to begin the month of May.

Seattle has played more road games than any team in baseball and had just one homestand through the first month of the season. Those factors, combined with untimely injuries, have left Dipoto scrambling to handle a chaotic start to the season.

Drew Smyly has yet to throw a regular-season pitch because of arm troubles. Felix Hernandez is likely out until at least June with bursitis in his pitching shoulder. Mitch Haniger, who was Seattle's best offensive player the first few weeks, is not likely to return from the disabled list until the end of May due to an oblique injury.

Dipoto said nothing has changed with the expected timetables on any of the three.

Couple those key injuries with struggles in middle relief and a major lack of offensive production from the first base and catcher positions and the Mariners in a way are fortunate to only be four games under .500.

''We have the ability to resuscitate, to get back in. We were going to go through an 11-15 stretch of our season regardless,'' Dipoto said.

One of Dipoto's biggest concerns is the dip in offensive production from catchers Mike Zunino and Carlos Ruiz and first basemen Danny Valencia and Daniel Voeglbach. The Mariners rank 14th in the American League in batting average and last in the AL in on-base percentage plus slugging percentage at both positions. Zunino is hitting .172, Valencia .181 and neither Ruiz nor Vogelbach has provided any relief off the bench in their limited opportunities.

Dipoto said the Mariners must remain patient with Valencia, noting his career average of .269 and lengthy success hitting left-handed pitching.

''At first base and catcher it's been a difficult time for all the bodies,'' Dipoto said.

Dipoto is hoping the pitching staff will stabilize in the coming weeks, although it's likely any chance at fielding the staff Seattle expected to have coming out of spring training won't come until closer to midseason. Along with having Smyly and Hernandez sidelined, the Mariners are still without key relievers Steve Cishek and Shae Simmons.

If there has been a bright spot among the starters, it's been lefty James Paxton, who is looking like a No. 1 starter with a 3-0 record and a 1.39 ERA in five starts.

''The pitching staff has been beaten up really since spring training. It's always disappointing when you go through injury and DL and the back-and-forth that follows, roster moves and ineffectiveness and the like,'' Dipoto said.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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