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Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H12

Despite collecting 262 hits last season, breaking George Sisler's 84-year-old record, Mariners leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki managed to score only 101 runs, not even good enough to make the league's top 10. One rival manager, when presented with those numbers, said: "Wow. That's hard to do."

Either Ichiro is not a very good base runner, or the Mariners lacked the bats to drive him in. Probably, it was a little of both. But on the latter point, the Mariners no longer have to worry -- not after spending $114 million to bring Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to Seattle.

New manager Mike Hargrove must be licking his chops. Not only did he get himself back on the bench after a year away, but then ownership and the front office opened the checkbook and gave him the type of offensive firepower he hasn't seen since his glory days with the Cleveland Indians in the mid-1990s.

All right, the Mariners aren't quite that deep. But Beltre and Sexson (the latter if healthy) should be good for 80 homers, and Bret Boone, who slipped badly in 2004, might bounce back with better protection around him. Problem is, the Mariners, who lost 99 games last season, probably don't have enough pitching to make a serious run. Every single member of their rotation has questions about them, beginning with number one starter Jamie Moyer, whose ERA rose by almost two runs last season.

But if they make some progress in 2005 and find some pitching along the way, things could be looking a whole lot better than they were a year ago.

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