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View from the other side: Mariners questions for Kate Preusser of Lookout Landing

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners are in town for a three-game series with the Jays.

The Mariners are 19-14, sitting in third place in the AL West. They are 7th in the AL in runs scored, at 4.58 runs per game. And 9th out of 15 AL teams in runs allowed per game at 4.79.

I sent off some questions to Kate Preusser, manager over at Lookout Landing (of course, right in the middle of finding out about Roberto Osuna) and she was nice enough to answer them for me.

The Mariners, like the Jays, are in a pretty tough division. What are your hopes for the season?

I’m sure Mariners and Blue Jays fans alike can share the frustration of playing well in a loaded division {shoots withering stare at AL Central}. Last year injuries torpedoed the M’s season, so wish number one is for everybody to stay healthy so we can get an idea of what the true talent level of this team is. That’s also going to be key for hanging around in the division. It’s a long season and you never know how the injury luck will go.

You have a couple of old friends of ours, Casey Lawrence and Marc Rzepczyski. What are their roles on the team?

What, no mention of Buffalo Bisons great Wade LeBlanc? Like LeBlanc, Casey Lawrence is serving as a long reliever after it was announced David Phelps would miss the season with TJ. He’s worked with the coaching staff to make a couple tweaks to his delivery--you’ll see him using an Iwakuma-style hesitation with his leg kick and also an occasional quick pitch--and has also bought in to the more stats-based approach of the current FO, which has improved his results. His ERA is up there at 10-something but his FIP is 3.67. As for Rzepczynski, it’s really hard to see how he fits with the team right now. The bullpen just doesn’t have room for a lefty specialist, and even at that, his results haven’t been great. He’s having a lot of trouble controlling his slider right now. I’m hoping he’ll maybe get a DL stint so he can get right.

I totally forgot about LeBlanc.

Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays will see?

I think the Jays will see Paxton, LeBlanc, and Leake during this series. The first two guys should be familiar to Jays fans--two lefties, about as different as two lefties can be. With LeBlanc you’ll probably also see a hefty dose of the Mariners bullpen (hello Casey Lawrence!) so it’ll be a big old reunion. The Jays were already done playing the Mariners when Seattle acquired Mike Leake last year, so he’ll be the wild card, having pitched only in the NL before. Leake has had some up-and-down outings so far this year but when he’s on he throws a varied pitch mix--nothing very fast, but with some wicked movement, especially on his slider.

I know this is far too open ended, but my youngest son’s favorite player has long been Ichro. What has it been like having him back this year and what do you expect his new role to be?

The Ichiro thing is really interesting, and maybe without precedent in baseball--the closest thing I can think of is the old player-coach thing, although of course he isn’t playing. Some people have termed it sad, having him in the clubhouse in full uniform and taking BP but not playing, but to his mind he’s keeping fit and preparing to return to baseball (in Japan, I would guess) next year. He’s been a great fixture in the clubhouse already--if you look on the field after wins, Ichiro is the first one out to give hugs and handshakes to all the guys. He seems happy, and as long as Ichiro is happy, I’m happy. I also think it’s cool that the Mariners created this role for him so he can be as close to baseball as he possibly can without playing; it’s a unique way to honor a unique player.

I’m planning to go to Seattle for the Jays series there. What do Mariner fans think of being invaded by Canadians for those games?

It’s not fun to have Safeco taken over by waves of rival fans, be they Blue Jays, Red Sox, or Yankees fans. The Jays fans are a little extra annoying though because, like their namesake birds, they are loud and obnoxious and they act like Safeco is theirs--”Rogers Centre West”--instead of like guests in our house. Last year I was pretty rude to a group of Blue Jays fans who were standing around talking in the beer line and not moving up, but in my defense happy hour was three minutes from ending, not that they knew that. We had a real passive-aggressive-off of Seattle “nice” vs. Canadian “politeness,” which, in retrospect, is pretty hilarious.

Who is your favorite Mariner to watch?

My favorite Mariner to watch, on the field and off, is Dee Gordon. Obviously it’s fun to watch him zoom around the bases, but he’s also a great teammate and genuinely seems to care. He’s always the first one out of the dugout to congratulate a guy who’s done something good and he doesn’t hug players so much as he kind of wraps himself around them, koala-style (the juxtaposition of little Dee running out to hug giant tree of a man Ryon Healy after his walk-off, and Ryon throwing him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, is one of my favorite images already this season).

He’s not scheduled to pitch this series, but Felix Hernandez isn’t having a very Felix Hernandez start to the season, what’s going on with him?

Sadly, this is the new normal for Félix. He’s actually doing better than his numbers suggest--they’re skewed by a blowout loss in San Francisco to start the season. The key for Félix is to not throw his not-sinking-sinker too much and instead use his off-speed offerings to get ahead of batters. It’s a work in progress as he transitions away from being a thrower into being a pitcher, and there are still stumbles on the road as he butts heads with the coaching staff (understandable, as Félix has outlasted about a half-dozen pitching coaches over his time as a Mariner). He’s not the dominant King that he was, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still a useful pitcher.

Thanks Kate.