De Fratus is gone and Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook are out because of injuries.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Scratch another name off the list of right-handed relievers vying for a spot in the Mariners’ reworked bullpen.
The Mariners on Wednesday placed right-handed reliever Justin De Fratus on waivers for the purpose of his outright release.
The move was somewhat surprising because De Fratus seemed penciled into one of the middle-relief spots since being signed in the offseason to a one-year, $750,000 contract. General manager Jerry Dipoto hoped De Fratus would return to his 2014 form (3-1, 2.39 ERA in 54 appearances) after a less-than-stellar 2015 (0-2, 5.51 ERA in 61 appearances).
Mariners 9, Giants 6
• After looking sharp in his first two starts of the spring, Hisashi Iwakuma’s command wasn’t quite as crisp Wednesday. Iwakuma did not make it out of the third inning, getting lifted at 51 pitches. In 21/3 innings, Iwakuma gave up five runs on seven hits with two walks and no strikeouts. A throwing error on a botched double play extended his second inning and led to two runs. In the third he gave up hits to four of the first five batters, including a two-run double to Angel Pagan.
“They put up good at-bats,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “To be honest, I thought some of the pitches were in the zone, but the umpire was a little tight today.”
• In his third at-bat of the game, Nelson Cruz lined a single into left field for his first hit of the spring. It snapped an 0-for-17 streak. Cruz knows spring numbers — good or bad — are meaningless, but even his teammates gave him a little mock celebration. “Spring training is about feeling,” Cruz said. “You want to get hits. But I want to feel good and know that what I’m seeing is the right thing instead of getting hits. I’ve felt really good the last three games, and my timing is better now.”
Player of the game
Leonys Martin isn’t known for his power, but the speedy center fielder flashed a little pop, hitting his first homer of the spring.
“We got power from our speed guys today. Those guys hit the ball well, and obviously it was carrying very well today. We jumped back in it after we got behind early, which was nice to see. We swung the bats very well.” — Manager Scott Servais on getting homers from Martin, Shawn O’Malley and Luis Sardinas.
The Mariners travel to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa on Thursday to face the Oakland A’s for the first time this spring. Left-hander James Paxton will get the start for Seattle, and Oakland will go with right-hander Kendall Graveman. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. The game will not be televised anywhere. The only live radio broadcast will be on MLB.com (subscription required). ESPN 710 will air it on tape delay.
But it also wasn’t shocking, because there was little sign of the 2014 De Fratus this spring. In four appearances, he pitched six innings, allowing six hits with three earned runs, three walks, four strikeouts, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
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Even more telling was that his fastball velocity was down to 89-91 mph. The Mariners hoped he would bounce back to 93-94 mph.
“I think the stuff wasn’t quite what it had been — the sharpness, crispness to it,” manager Scott Servais.
Servais saw it Tuesday in De Fratus’ outing against the Angels (three hits, one walk and one run allowed in two innings).
“I do think there is a chance we could re-sign him (to a minor-league deal) and bring back him into the organization,” Servais said. “I know he’s going to look at his options and if he does get claimed. We certainly would like to have him back. We just didn’t see it where he was at right now.”
Where the Mariners’ bullpen is at right now is far from certain. De Fratus is gone, and Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook are out because of lat injuries. Scribner won’t be ready for opening day, and Cook has been placed on the 60-day disabled list. De Fratus and Scribner were expected to be in the bullpen, and Cook was expected to contend for a spot.
With Steve Cishek (closer) and Joaquin Benoit (eighth inning) locked into their roles, three spots are open for right-handers. Competing for those spots: Jonathan Aro, Mayckol Guaipe, Joel Peralta, Casey Coleman, Blake Parker and Tony Zych.
It’s not an overpowering group. Zych probably can be put into one of those spots. He has the biggest fastball and upside. But he also has 13 big-league appearances — all in September.
Guaipe and Aro are on the 40-man roster, which gives them an advantage. But neither has been particularly good. Aro has allowed nine hits and eight runs (six earned) in 51/3 innings. Guaipe gave up a run on three hits with a walk in two innings Wednesday against the Giants.
With the Mariners having two open 40-man roster spots, Peralta could make the club. He has pitched well with just one shaky outing, and he has some “track record,” which Servais favors. Parker has had a “sneaky good” spring, Servais said. He has made four one-inning appearances and hasn’t allowed a run and just two hits with six strikeouts. But those outings have come in late innings of Cactus League games against mostly minor-league hitters.
Servais was diplomatic about the competition.
“Obviously when Scribner and Cook went down, that bit into our depth,” Servais said. “Where we’re at, there’s plenty of opportunity for guys to step up. Joel Peralta has been a nice surprise. I didn’t know what we’d get there, and he’s throwing the ball really well. He looks good, but there’s competition there yet. I think each club in the Cactus League or spring training, their 25-man is not set.”
The competition will be decided by Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto with input from the rest of the staff.
“You do rely on track record, but you also have to trust your eyes and what you’re seeing,” Servais said. “A lot goes into those decisions, from our group here and coaching staff to Jerry and the front-office guys, what they’re seeing when they acquired the players. There’s a lot of opinions and a lot that weighs into those decisions. Again, there is plenty of opportunity here.”
Dipoto is expected to monitor the waiver wire and consider making a trade for right-handed relief help. He could deal players that are out of minor-league options such as first baseman Jesus Montero, pitcher Mike Montgomery or catchers Steve Clevenger or Rob Brantly.
Though the right-handed portion of the bullpen is in disarray, the left-handed side isn’t far from settled. Much of that depends on the health of Charlie Furbush, who has battled tightness in the back of his shoulder. Furbush played catch Tuesday and felt better. A day later, he felt good enough to play catch again and threw out to 130 feet. He even threw some fastballs from his full delivery on flat ground.
“It feels much better,” he said. “We’re making progress.”
Furbush plans to have the same routine Thursday.
But whether he will be ready for opening day is unclear. The plan was to have Furbush and Vidal Nuno as the two lefties. Nuno would slide up into the late-inning lefty spot if Furbush can’t go.
To hedge against Furbush being behind when the season starts, the Mariners have moved Montgomery into a relief role. Montgomery worked a scoreless inning Wednesday.
“We’re going to see more and more looks from him,” Servais said. “I’m interested to see how it will play out.”
The same could be said for his bullpen.