The Mariners made five cuts from their big league spring training roster. Also manager Scott Servais admitted that Charlie Furbush probably won't be ready by opening day.
The Mariners trimmed down their Major League spring training roster to 40 players on Sunday morning, cutting five players from big league camp.
Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Aro, left-handed pitcher David Rollins and catcher Steven Baron were optioned to Class AAA Tacoma. Meanwhile right-handed pitcher Adrian Sampson and infielder Ed Lucas, who are not on the 40-man roster, were re-assigned to minor league camp.
“All those guys showed well at times in camp, but the innings and the at-bats are starting to go away,” manager Scott Servais said. “So we’ll let those guys go down and get ready for their season as well.”
The moves were not unexpected. Of the group, Aro had the best chance to make the opening day roster – and it was a slim chance at best. Acquired as part of the trade that brought Wade Miley to Seattle in exchange for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias, Aro was competing for a middle relief spot in the bullpen. Injuries to Ryan Cook and Evan Scribner gave him some hope of making the team. But Aro struggled early with his fastball command, falling behind early in counts and leaving pitches over the middle that were hit hard. He made six appearances, giving up six earned runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 inning with two walks and seven strikeouts.
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“I’m really happy that we acquired him this offseason,” Servais said. “I think he got off to a little rocky start this spring. I thought he threw the ball really well in his last time out (one inning, three strikeouts vs. Texas). He moved up very fast last year, going all the way from A ball to the big leagues in one year with Boston. I think he’s going to be a guy that works into our mix in the bullpen at some point. But he needs a little bit more time in the minor leagues.”
Sampson, a graduate of Skyline, made four appearances, throwing a total of 10 innings and allowing five earned runs with eight strikeouts and no walks.
“He’s had a very good camp,” Servais said. “He really jumped up the depth chart in what he brings to the table. His stuff ticked up pitching out of the bullpen, but he’ll probably go into our rotation in Tacoma and continue to work on his changeup. He could be a bullpen piece down the road. The velocity was more than I what expected from him. And the breaking ball at times showed very well.”
Rollins, a rule 5 selection last season, is no longer tethered to the 25-man roster. He appeared five games, throwing seven innings and allowing two runs with no walks and two strikeouts.
“I thought he competed very well,” Servais said. “I think there are things to work on with his breaking ball. He knows who he is as far as he’s going to have to come in and get the lefties out and do those things.”
Baron appeared in eight Cactus League games, getting three hits in 10 at-bats. It’s uncertain if he will stay in Tacoma with Mike Zunino also on the Rainiers’ roster. There’s a chance that Baron could go back to Class AA Jackson where he could play more.
“I thought he was one of the most improved players we had in camp, especially from the offensive side,” Servais said. “I really like him defensively. Obviously, it’s been his calling card. The catch-and-throw skills are very good. Offensively, I think he’s made some nice adjustments and staying with a plan. One of the questions he asked in his meeting was: ‘What do you want to see from me?’ I said ‘I just want you to be you.’ We aren’t looking for more power, just more consistent at-bats and improve on his game there.”
Lucas, 33, seemed ticketed for Tacoma when he signed a minor league deal in the offseason. The versatile infielder will be with the Rainiers as immediate depth with Major League experience, similar to outfielder Mike Baxter.
“They are very important to your organization,” Servais said of players like Lucas. “Everybody gets locked in on the 25-man and 40-man roster but it’s the other pieces around it – the six year free agents and non-roster guys that you can add – that all play a part. It’s not just another guy. At some point in the year, they are going to play into what you are trying to do. Inevitably, it happens.”
In his 13th professional season, Lucas knew his fate when he met with Servais.
“He knows what’s coming when he walks in the room,” Servais said. “He’s been through it before. Ed’s really improved. It doesn’t typically happen late in a player’s career where he improves. He’s improved from when I had him when he was over with the Angels to where he is today. He’s making adjustments quicker.”
Lucas, a Dartmouth grad, had once been offered an internship for a front office job with the Angels by Servais and Dipoto. Servais checked with him again on it.
“I asked, ‘Do you still want to play? Or do you want to be the intern?'” Servais said. “He said he wants to keep playing and I said, ‘You should keep playing.'”
*** The Mariners have an off day on Tuesday, but it won’t be for Servais, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, general manager Jerry Dipoto and pitcher James Paxton.
The Mariners are keeping Paxton on normal rest so he will pitch Tuesday in a minor league game against the White Sox on the back fields of the Mariners’ complex.
“We’ll keep him on schedule,” Servais said. “Mel will be here. I will be here. And obviously Jerry will be around and we’ll go from there.”
*** Charlie Furbush had another extended throwing session on Sunday. The plan is for Furbush to throw off a mound on Monday or Tuesday. But the odds of him being ready for opening day are slim. There simply isn’t enough time to get him ready to pitch at a high level.
“I’m trying to be as optimistic as I can,” Servais said. “But you guys can look at the calendar. I think there’s a better chance that Charlie is probably going to be late to start the season with us. Nothing definite yet, nothing set in stone, but it’s starting to look that way.”
*** The original diagnosis of Evan Scribner’s lat injury was a minor strain that wouldn’t keep him out for more than a few weeks. But it appears the right-handed reliever isn’t as close to returning as expected.
“I don’t have all the details,” Servais said. “I do know that he did a get a second opinion and they also did some other tests. I don’t know all the details of it. But the feeling I got was that it wasn’t great. It may not be progressing as quickly as we hoped.”