After a disastrous home stand, the Mariners now head to Baltimore to try to get healthy off one of the league’s worst teams. However, this road trip won’t be interesting for the games themselves, but instead, how the team handles the inevitable roster decisions that should come at week’s end.
The weekend saw the Mariners get some much needed production from Ryan Langerhans (reached base nine times in 17 trips to the plate) and Michael Saunders (single, double, home run, and a walk in two starts), who split time in left field due to Milton Bradley’s absence from the team. While Bradley isn’t going to travel with the team to Baltimore, the initial “five to seven day” time frame given by the team suggests that there’s a good chance he’ll join the Mariners on Friday in Tampa, at which point, the M’s will have to make a move to get him back on the roster.
The easy decision would be to just send Saunders back to Tacoma, give Bradley the LF job back, and soldier onward with the Griffey/Sweeney platoon at DH. But, the Mariners are not stupid, and they know just as well as we do that it isn’t working, and that they can’t continue to just punt offense from an offense-only position. And so, I don’t think that’s what they’re going to do.
This team needs a spark, needs some life, and needs to keep Milton Bradley’s bat in the line-up (they are 10-10 when he starts, 2-9 when he doesn’t). Saunders hit for more power in a weekend than either Griffey or Sweeney did in a month, and he can actually play the field. The organization thought he was ready to help them last summer, and despite a tough start in Tacoma, he’s clearly a better player than either of the current DHs on the roster right now. And this team needs better players than they have as they try to dig themselves out of the hole they dug the last two weeks.
So, unless he just looks abysmal in the Baltimore series, I don’t think Saunders goes back to Tacoma. My guess is that one of the two DHs lose their spot, and according to Larry LaRue, it’s going to be Junior (side note – can you imagine what would be getting written right now if Bradley, and not Griffey, was the one sleeping in the clubhouse during a game? Just saying).
The Mariners can’t continue like they have been, and the performance of Saunders and Langerhans have forced the team to admit that they have options. They can’t continue with Griffey and Sweeney, and I don’t think they will. When Milton comes back, I’m guessing we see a new line-up, and honestly, it’s long overdue.