Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre, who recently suffered a fractured fibula while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, will be out considerably longer than initially believed, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Sucre’s injury ultimately required surgery that will keep him on the shelf for the next six months, trainer Rick Griffin told Seattle reporters yesterday. Sucre was, perhaps, a long shot to make the Mariners’ roster in the first place considering the team’s offseason additions of Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger, but he now stands to miss as much as half the season. While Sucre is just a .178/.206/.229 hitter in 235 plate appearances at the Major League level, he’s also caught 40 percent of opposing base-stealers and rated as a strong pitch-framer throughout his big league tenure in Seattle. Johns notes within his piece that Sucre is the only player dealing with a significant injury as camp approaches, adding that Robinson Cano is fully recovered from double hernia surgery that he underwent in October and lefty Charlie Furbush is throwing pain-free after missing the second half of the 2015 season due to shoulder tendinitis.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- Also from Johns, both Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais said at a recent media luncheon that they feel the team is positioned to contend in the AL West this season. Servais spoke highly of the club’s improvements in terms of outfield defense and overall athleticism, though he conceded that they’ll have to perform well in close games due to the nature of Seattle’s run-suppressing environment. “I think we’ll play a high number of one-run games,” said Servais. “I just believe in this ballpark, you’re going to play tight games. So the ability to get on base and create consistent opportunities to score is important. The more athletic you are, the better chance you have to make that happen.” Dipoto went on to speak about the competition not only for the final few spots in the bullpen but also in the rotation, where he labeled the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation a “great competition” between Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Nate Karns. He also added that the club’s goal is for Mike Zunino to open the season at Triple-A and get as much development time as he needs after many believe that he was rushed to the Majors. “This season is going to be about what’s best in the career development of Mike Zunino,” said Dipoto. Topics such as the potential batting order, defensive alignments and first-base platoon options are discussed in the piece as well.
- Following the announcement of Doug Fister’s one-year deal with the Astros on Thursday, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs explores the greatly diminished velocity which contributed to Fister’s struggles and left him with only a slightly larger guarantee than journeyman Rich Hill. Sullivan found 117 pitchers dating back to 2002 that lost more than 1.5 mph on their fastball in consecutive seasons of 50 innings or more (which Fister has done), finding that there are nearly as many pitchers who didn’t start a game in the third year (15) as there were pitchers who regained a full mile per hour on their heater (22). While there were some notable exceptions (Ryan Vogelsong among them), most saw, at best, minimal improvement of 0.1 to 0.2 mph in their fastballs. Though a forearm problem could have played a role in Fister’s drop, Sullivan also points out that he didn’t gain any velocity in his return to the rotation after a DL stint, making a big rebound in 2016 seem unlikely. The one-year term could also be advantageous to Fister, however, as if he is able to rediscover some of his previous form, he’ll be able to enter a vastly weaker market in a considerably strong position next winter.
- Though C.J. Wilson has been an oft-speculated trade candidate this winter, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that Wilson is likely to open the season with the Angels. Much has been made of the Angels’ left field platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry — I’d personally contend that second base is a greater need, anyhow — but Wilson himself spoke to Fletcher and voiced a belief that the club’s rotation will be what determines its successes in 2016. Wilson noted that a team “[doesn’t] need 10 Mike Trouts,” as he went on to discuss the club’s depth of rotation candidates and some of the questions that surround them — himself included. Wilson said that on a personal level, he won’t be satisfied unless he approaches his 2013 results — a 3.39 ERA in 212 1/3 innings — but he’s more concerned with team success anyhow. “I’ve had all the individual success I need in my career,” Wilson told Fletcher. “The only thing left for me is the World Series. Anything less than that is not going to be enough.”