With the exhibition schedule almost exactly at its midpoint, most of the roster decisions the Mariners must make from now on could be subject...
PEORIA, Ariz. — With the exhibition schedule almost exactly at its midpoint, most of the roster decisions the Mariners must make from now on could be subject to internal debate.
As usual, performance over the final two weeks of Cactus League play will be the major factor in the calls. But with 47 players in camp after Wednesday’s deep cuts, there seem to be pros — and a few cons — to everyone’s argument.
Seattle seems bent to carry 12 pitchers. “You’re going to get to 12 at some point,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “You might as well start out that way.”
The only slight alteration would be if Joel Pineiro, whose stiff shoulder muscle has kept him from pitching for two weeks, starts the season optioned to Tacoma. That would create some temporary leeway on the pitching staff or on the bench.
But other than the possibility of temporary moves, it seems that 22 spots on the 25-man roster for Opening Day are set now.
Pineiro, Meche, Jamie Moyer and Bobby Madritsch will be in the rotation. Ryan Franklin (7.50 spring earned-run average) will be either in the rotation or in the bullpen, if he’s beaten out by Aaron Sele (2.57 spring ERA).
If anyone does fall off toward the tail end of the rotation, newcomer Jorge Campillo or Cha Seung Baek could slip into focus — if they perform well the last two weeks.
Five relievers have spots locked up — closer Eddie Guardado, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Julio Mateo, J.J. Putz and Ron Villone.
Should Franklin go to the ‘pen, ostensibly as a long reliever, it creates a hot competition for the seventh and final relief slot. Competing for it right now are Jeff Nelson, Scott Atchison, Dan Reichert and George Sherrill. Left-hander Matt Thornton has been inconsistent but is still a possibility.
Nelson, of course, is the known quantity. But the Mariners liked Atchison’s work last year and he’s having a nice spring. Ditto Sherrill and Reichert.
Sherrill may have a natural lead for the spot because Hargrove acknowledged this week he has a “strong preference” for having a situational lefty in the bullpen.
Eight starting spots are set — catcher Miguel Olivo, first baseman Richie Sexson, second baseman Bret Boone, third baseman Adrian Beltre, left fielder Randy Winn, center fielder Jeremy Reed, right fielder Ichiro and designated hitter Raul Ibanez. But a seismic shift appears to be happening at shortstop.
With Pokey Reese’s spring affected by an ankle problem and, more lately, personal matters that took him out of camp for several days, Jose Lopez has used the opportunity and shown far better play at short than he did when he was called up for the last half of last season — in addition to hitting .308 this spring with some big late-game, run-producing hits.
Yet this is far from decided. Reese is a known quality as a superior defensive player whose downside has long been limited offense and frequent injuries.
If Lopez is kept, he will play. That would push Reese to a backup slot and create a jam on the bench.
If the Mariners keep 12 pitchers, there will be room for only four bench players. Three of them would be catcher Dan Wilson, infielder/outfielder Willie Bloomquist and infielder Scott Spiezio.
“We are looking for enough flexibility, with the likes of Bloomquist, Benji (Gil), Spiezio, (Ricky) Gutierrez, where we can have a specialty in one spot,” Hargrove said.
Had Bucky Jacobsen, coming off knee surgery, been healthy this spring that special ability might have been his big bat, giving Hargrove the possibly of runs with one swing in late-game situations.
Asked if he meant speed, Hargrove said, “That’s why (outfielder Jamal) Strong is still here.”
Another possibility is a left-handed bat. Spiezio would be one, as could Greg Dobbs, fourth on the club at .381, playing left field and first base this spring.
If Reese is a backup, there is no open spot. But if there is, Hargrove said he isn’t leaning toward an infielder or outfielder right now.
“We know we have guys who can do both, so the option is open,” he said.
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Battling for position: most roster spots appear set
Halfway through spring training, 22 of the Mariners’ 25 roster spots appear to be set.
In (4): Joel Pineiro, Jamie Moyer, Bobby Madritsch, Gil Meche. In, somewhere (1): Ryan Franklin. If Aaron Sele beats out Franklin for a spot in the rotation, Franklin will make the club in the bullpen.
Contenders: Sele, Jorge Campillo, Cha Seung Baek.
Bullpen (7 spots)
In (5): Eddie Guardado, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Julio Mateo, J.J. Putz, Ron Villone. Contenders: Franklin is in if he’s not in rotation; plus Jeff Nelson, Scott Atchison, Dan Reichert, George Sherrill, Matt Thornton.
Position players (9 spots)
In (8): C Miguel Olivo, 1B Richie Sexson, 2B Bret Boone, 3B Adrian Beltre, LF Randy Winn, CF Jeremy Reed, RF Ichiro, DH Raul Ibanez. In, somewhere (1): SS Pokey Reese. If he loses his starting job to Jose Lopez, he’ll be on the bench.
Bench (4 spots)
In (3): C Dan Wilson, INF/OF Willie Bloomquist, INF Scott Spiezio. Contenders: INF Benji Gil, INF Ricky Gutierrez, INF Ramon Santiago, OF Jamal Strong, INF/OF Greg Dobbs.