Baseball is back. The Astros face one the team’s that are projected to be in the hunt for the AL West crown on Opening Day, the Seattle Mariners. We talked with SBNation's excellent Mariners blog, Lookout Landing, about Opening Day.
Lookout Landing's managing editor Kate Preusser was kind enough to answer the questions.
RD: It seemed like the Mariners had the most entertaining offseason under new GM Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto was wheeling and dealing like a mad man all offseason. What was going through your mind when you had to do post after post with all these moves? And in the end, do you feel like Dipoto has improved the team?
KP: I knew from last year that Dipoto was going to keep us on our toes this offseason, but I was literally making a pie on Thanksgiving Eve when the giant Segura-Haniger-Walker trade went down. There was another time too I had been out at a basketball game on Friday night and I started seeing the reports come in and had to scramble to make sure we had someone to cover it. Jerry does not care about our free time, nor our national holidays, nor pie. What a jerk.
All kidding aside, though, I think Dipoto has improved the team he was given as best he could. I'm especially excited to see our outfield defense in action this year. After years of watching lumbering outfielders, it's quite a sea change for Mariners fans (that's a nautical joke).
RD: Any surprises from Spring Training?
KP: Mitch Haniger looked better than advertised, and Yovani Gallardo looked--if possible--worse than advertised. Between his struggles in both the Cactus League and the WBC. I'm really hoping his skill set translates better to Safeco, but I'm not optimistic. As far as under-the-radar players, Taylor Motter and Guillermo Heredia both had fantastic springs and earned themselves spots on the 25-man.
RD: Do you think King Felix can round back into form in 2017?
KP: It's hard to tell, but his last few starts certainly looked encouraging. I don't think "wounded pride" can add ticks to declining fastball velocity, but Félix is certainly pitching angry and has put on 20 pounds of good weight. We'll see if that translates to on-field results.
RD: I enjoyed Grant Brisbee's Season Preview. He picked the Mariners to win the AL West, but the Astros to win the World Series. Do you think of the Mariners chances this season? Who do you think the Mariners' biggest competition for the AL West crown?
KP: Unfortunately, I liked our chances a lot more before the Drew Smyly injury. I only had us pegged for a WC spot before, but not knowing the extent of Smyly's injury makes me much less bullish on the season. I think the Astros are the clear favorites, but it's now a question to me as to whether or not the Mariners can get past the perennially-contending Rangers (especially if Tyson Ross is healthy) and a sneakily good Angels team.
RD: What are the biggest questions surrounding the Mariners entering opening day?
KP: The pitching, the pitching, the pitching. All other questions--whether the strategy of a light-hitting outfield with plus defense and a more power-hitting infield pays off, what the deal is at first base, whatever--pale in comparison to the heavy question marks that surround every single one of our starting five.