Cano, Hernandez and questions for Mariners

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 25, 2014 at 7:44 pm •  Published: March 25, 2014
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SEATTLE (AP) — Robinson Cano was just the start. The Seattle Mariners didn't stop with one major splash in trying to catch up with the best in the AL West.

Even so, there remain many questions about whether Seattle's additions as a whole can improve a team coming off a 71-win season.

The moves made by Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik were in hopes of improving the Mariners and solidifying his own future after a shaky offseason that started with Eric Wedge's decision not to return as manager.

Lloyd McClendon is getting his second shot as a major league manager nine years after he was last leading a club in Pittsburgh. Along with Cano, Seattle signed outfielder Corey Hart, closer Fernando Rodney and traded for designated hitter Logan Morrison.

Despite those moves, there remain concerns about the depth of Seattle's rotation beyond ace Felix Hernandez and whether players the Mariners have been waiting for to finally pop can establish themselves as reliable, everyday starters.

Yet the Mariners believe they will be competitive in one of baseball's toughest divisions.

"We're ready to win. That's what it's all about," Hernandez said. "We're ready to win ballgames in Seattle. We're ready to be in the playoffs, we're ready to do that."

Here are five things to watch as the Mariners try and contend in the loaded AL West:

HELLO CANO: Cano's signing was a stunning coup for the Mariners to pry him out of New York. But $240 million and 10 years will convince a lot of players to take up residence in the Pacific Northwest.

Is there enough around Cano, though, to make him have the same offensive impact that he did with the Yankees? That will only happen if Hart is healthy enough to be in the lineup and can be the slugger he was in Milwaukee before knee problems sidelined him for 2013. Hart, Morrison and Justin Smoak must be protection around Cano and Kyle Seager.

If not, then no one will dare pitch to Cano.

ROTATION, ROTATION, ROTATION: Seattle's rotation is a concern as the season begins with Hernandez the only certainty.

Hernandez was supposed to be backed up by AL Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma, star prospects James Paxton and Taijuan Walker and a veteran to be determined. At this point, the only certainty seems to be that Paxton will be in the rotation behind Hernandez. Iwakuma and Walker aren't likely to join the rotation until mid- to late-April because of injuries.