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04/22/09 9:34 PM ET

Inbox: What's key to early success?

Beat reporter Jim Street answers Mariners fans' questions

Welcome to the first edition of the Inbox, formerly known as the Mailbag. We're here to answer your questions regarding the Mariners, so fire up your computer and send them in. Our mission is to answer as many as we can on a weekly, or twice-a-month, basis. Please remember to include your name and the city you live in.

What is your opinion on why the Mariners are off to a better start this season than last season?
-- Barry M., Enumclaw, Wash.

It starts with the overall team attitude. There is a unity inside the clubhouse that was not there in 2008 and veterans like Adrian Beltre, Mike Sweeney, Ken Griffey Jr., and Jarrod Washburn have been instrumental in getting everyone being on the same page and playing as a team, not as individuals.

The addition of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez and left fielder Endy Chavez has made the team more athletic, on the bases and in the field. I would not be making an error by saying the outfield alignment of Chavez in left, Gutierrez in center and Ichiro Suzuki in right is as good as any team in the American League, if not in the National League as well.

This team is built around pitching and defense and as soon as it warms up, I would expect the offense to come around.

I understand that Phillippe Aumont has been moved to the bullpen at Class A High Desert. I was expecting to see a dynamite starter in another couple of years, not another conversion experiment. What's going on?
-- Sam T., Seattle

Aumont pitched in relief for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic and did a good job in that role. As a reliever in the Minors, he will not throw nearly as many pitches as he would as a starter and he could reach the Majors much sooner as a reliever.

That being said, as he gets older and stronger, there is nothing that says the Mariners could not convert him back to being a starter. Ryan Rowland-Smith, for example, came up as a reliever and did well as a starter at the end of last season.

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Is it too early to get concerned about Ken Griffey Jr.? I mean, he's batting around .200 with one RBI two weeks into the season.
-- Brad M., Bellingham, Wash.

I would say not to worry. Once the weather warms up a little, I would expect Griffey to warm up right along with the temperature. He's not the same player he was when he left Seattle 10 years ago, but opposing teams still respect him enough to pitch very carefully to him and the Rays even threw a Ted Williams shift at him, stationing three infielders on the first-base side of second base.

Why didn't Major League Baseball make a bigger deal of it when Ichiro became the all-time hits leader among Japanese players?
-- Susumu, F., Tokyo

It is difficult to equate hits from two countries and all Major League records are just that -- numbers accumulated when a player is in the North American big leagues. If Pete Rose came out of retirement, signed with a Japanese team and got a hit -- would that be a huge deal in Japan? I doubt it.

What Ichiro has done, such as eight consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, is a big deal throughout the world of baseball, but getting his 3,086th professional hit was a much bigger story in Japan than it was here.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said Jarrod Washburn "re-invented himself." What did he mean by that?
-- Carl N., Des Moines, Iowa

Washburn and Maddon spent several years together with the Angels and the pitching repertoire Washburn has this season is much different than in the past. He has added a sinker and also has had better command of his slider, which befuddled the Rays' left-handed hitters, who went a combined 0-for-10 with six strikeouts against him on Tuesday night.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.