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Mariners off to slow start, and more

The Seattle Mariners are supposed to be an elite team. The franchise has not made the playoffs since winning an MLB-record 116 games in 2001, only to fall in the America League Championship rSeries to the New York Yankees. Fast forward to 2015, and Seattle has ample hope after signing Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to accompany a quality core.

However, the Mariners are trying to regroup after going to Dodger Stadium and getting swept. At 3-6, Seattle is only 1.5 games behind the first-place Oakland Athletics in the American League West, but there are legitimate concerns. The starting rotation is supposed to be a strength, but there have been alarming problems almost across the board.

Felix Hernandez had to leave his last start with tightness in his right quad, although he is expected to start on Sunday against the Texas Rangers, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Behind Hernandez, the concerns run deeper. Hasashi Iwakuma has endured a pair of bad starts to kick off the season, posting a 6.55 ERA. Iwakuma also had a poor ending to 2014 with a 7.61 ERA in five September starts. At 34 years old, Iwakuma’s struggles are worrisome.

Then there are the youngsters in James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Paxton, 26, looked good against the Los Angeles Angels despite drawing the loss, but was pounded at Dodger Stadium. Walker is the main problem, though. Walker has been brutalized in both of his outings, sitting 0-2 with a grizzly 17.18 ERA.

For the Mariners to made a deep run, Walker has to be better. This is a player who has been a top prospect for years and is being depended on heavily. There have been concerns about Walker leading into this season, stemming from his personal decision to leave the Arizona Fall League in October after only two starts, when he was scheduled to pitch 25-30 innings, per Lookout Landing of SB Nation.

Finally, there is Fernando Rodney. Rodney, 38, has gotten off to a tough start. Already, Rodney has blown a pair of saves, contributing to his bloated 16.20 ERA and 3.20 WHIP. Seattle’s bullpen is deep, begging the question of how long Rodney can continue to struggle like this before roles are reversed.

Tigers, Royals rolling

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals were projected to step back in the standings this year. Apparently, neither clubhouse got the memo. Detroit is a league-best 8-1 with Kansas City a half-game behind at 7-1, following its first loss of the season on Wednesday.

The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians were trendy picks to make moves in 2015, but already find themselves 4.5 games off the pace. Both Cleveland and Chicago are smarting offensively, with both having played eight games and yet to crack 30 runs. It’s early, but early returns say the Tigers and Royals aren’t going anywhere.

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