Last year was a close-but-no-cigar kind of year for the Seattle Mariners, who went 87-75 and finished one game behind Kansas City and Oakland in the Wild Card. Heck, even Felix Hernandez finished second to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber in AL Cy Young voting.
This year, however, the Mariners seem poised to make the playoffs, as they’ve added Nelson Cruz to a lineup that already features Robinson Cano. But it’s not going to be easy.
The AL West is arguably the best division in baseball.
“Yeah, it is tough,” Seattle center fielder Austin Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think the organization really made some moves to show that they want to win. This team is definitely built to win, and I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’ve been a part of some really good lineups in the past years and really enjoyed hitting at that top spot, so it should be a nice, fun and challenging season this year.”
Jackson was famously traded from Detroit to Seattle last July 31, right before the trade deadline. He was in center field when the deal went down and had to immediately leave the game.
“When things happen that fast, you really have to turn the page really quick,” Jackson said. “You’re going to a team that was in contention at the time and really wanted to win. I think once you see the excitement in those guys’ faces when you walk in the locker room the first time, you kind of get over it. You see that now this is your new brotherhood and you do whatever you have to do to help your team win.”
Jackson hit .229 with 14 RBIs, five doubles, 11 steals and 19 runs scored in 54 games with Seattle. He’ll be the everyday leadoff hitter for the Mariners this season – even though manager Lloyd McClendon has said he’d like to give Jackson some more rest this year.
Jackson, 28, has played in 151+ games in three of his five MLB seasons, including a career-high 154 in 2014.
“I’m out there for the long haul.” Jackson said. “That’s how I feel about it. I think Lloyd does a great job though of being able to tell when you need a blow; 162 games – that’s a lot of games, especially playing the position I play and hitting at the top of the lineup trying to score a lot of runs. It can – over the course of a season – take a little toll on your body. But I want to win, and I want to be out there every day. I know that that’s not always possible, but like I said, I enjoy being out there competing with the team and trying to win.”
Jackson has enjoyed spring training this year, especially getting to know his new teammates and reconnecting with old ones. That chemistry and camaraderie will be important as the Mariners vie for their first postseason appearance since 2001.
“It’s still a good division,” Jackson said of the AL West. “I think you look around at some of the players that some of the teams acquired – they’re still tough. They’re still going to be tough teams to beat – going into their house, them coming to our house. It’s going to be one of those divisions where it’s up in the air, really. I think everybody has the talent to get that No. 1 slot, but I think if we can stay healthy, we have the best chance.”