The Mariners announced their 30-man travel roster for trip to Japan, which includes exhibition games Sunday and Monday against the Yomiuri Giants and the first two games of the MLB season, Wednesday and Thursday against the Oakland A’s.
Of the group of 30, the roster must officially be pared down to 28 before that first game against the A’s. The Mariners won’t be allowed to play 28 in the game, but they are able to declare 25 eligible. They can reset that 25-man roster the following day for the series finale. The Mariners will have to trim the 28-man roster down to 25 on March 28 before they face the Boston Red Sox at T-Mobile Park.
Also, the Mariners can set the players whom they think won’t be ready on the 10-day injured list (formerly the disabled list) before the opener in Japan. Third baseman Kyle Seager (hand surgery), right-handed pitchers Gerson Bautista (right pectoral strain), Anthony Swarzak (shoulder inflammation) and Sam Tuivailala (Achilles surgery) are expected to be placed on the IL since they won’t be ready to play for the home opener.
With the weird pause in the schedule, the minimum 10 days on the disabled list takes a pause in between the final game in Japan and the regular start to the MLB season. It’s why outfielder Mallex Smith (elbow strain) isn’t expected to be placed on the IL. The Mariners believe he will be ready to play by the home opener. It’s why they kept him in Arizona to continue gaining at-bats in minor league games.
Because Seager’s timetable to a full return is close to two months, the Mariners could place him on the 60-day IL, opening up a spot on the 40-man roster.
Here’s a look at the roster, sorted alphabetically by position group with some notes on each.
Name, Number, Throws
- Dan Altavilla, No. 53, RHP
- Shawn Armstrong, No. 37, RHP
- Chasen Bradford, No. 60, RHP
- Brandon Brennan, No. 65, RHP
- Roenis Elias, No. 55, LHP
- Matt Festa, No. 67, RHP
- Cory Gearrin, No. 35, RHP
- Zac Rosscup, No. 59, LHP
- Nick Rumbelow, No. 52, RHP
- Hunter Strickland, No. 43, RHP
No real surprises on the list of 10 relievers, but it will be interesting when they have to pare it down to their expected eight relievers for the home opener. This position group doesn’t have the flexibility that general manager Jerry Dipoto craves in terms of available minor league options. Strickland, Rosscup, Gearrin, Elias and Armstrong are locked into spots because of service time or no minor league options. Brennan is a Rule 5 draft pick, meaning he must remain on the roster or be sent back to the Rockies if he’s taken off. Altavilla, Bradford, Rumbelow and Festa all have minor league options, meaning two of them won’t make the 25-man roster before the team faces the Red Sox.
Strickland will serve as the closer if he feels up to it. He’s been dealing with a stiff lower back for the past week. He did throw a bullpen session Tuesday and pitched in the B game on Wednesday before the team left. He is expected to pitch in the Mariners’ first exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants as one final test.
“Really good,” M’s manager Scott Servais said Wednesday afternoon. “Really happy with the way he threw the ball. Ball was coming out hot. He looks completely healthy.”
Starting pitchers (6)
Name, Number, Throws
- Marco Gonzales, No. 7, LHP
- Felix Hernandez, No. 34, RHP
- Yusei Kikuchi, No. 18, LHP
- Mike Leake, No. 8, RHP
- Wade LeBlanc, No. 29, LHP
- Tommy Milone*, No. 57, LHP
Milone was brought along for starting depth, and he’ll likely pitch in one of the two exhibition games. He was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason and is expected join Class AAA Tacoma once the team returns from Japan. Gonzales and Kikuchi pitched Wednesday. Kikuchi pitched in the B game, and Gonzales pitched later that evening. They will start the two games against the A’s. For Kikuchi, that will be seven days between starts, which is a little longer than normal — even for Japanese starting pitchers, who pitch with five days rest between starts.
“It’s very clunky,” Servais said of the schedule. “It’s something our guys have to deal with. He’ll throw extra bullpen sessions to try and stay sharp. That’s the way we thought it was best to do it. This is how we mapped it out at the beginning of spring training. It’s not easy. There will be a lot of down time. We just don’t play that many games. It’s a lot of travel and down time.”
Name, Number, Bats/Throws
- David Freitas, No. 36, R/R
- Jose Lobaton*, No. 31, S/R
- Omar Narvaez, No. 22, L/R
The Mariners haven’t decided on Freitas or Lobaton as the backup catcher. Lobaton is in camp on a minor league contract and would have to be added to the 40-man roster. Seattle has one open spot which is expected to be used for Ichiro. But if Seager or Tuivailala were placed on the 60-day IL, then another spot or two could open up. Realistically, if the Mariners really wanted Lobaton on the 40-man roster, they could also place Freitas on waivers and try to outright him to Class AAA Tacoma to open up an extra spot. An opposing American League scout said it was unlikely that a team would claim Freitas off waivers at this point in the season. But from a roster structure standpoint, it would be easier to just send Lobaton to Tacoma and then open up a roster spot when it was needed for him to come up.
Name, Number, Bats/Throws
- Tim Beckham, No. 1, R/R
- Edwin Encarnacion, No. 10, R/R
- Dee Gordon, No. 9, L/R
- Ryon Healy, No. 27, R/R
- Dylan Moore, No. 25, R/R
- Daniel Vogelbach, No. 20, L/R
The Mariners decided that Moore had beaten out veteran Kris Negron for the utility spot about a week ago, if not earlier given the contract situation. Negron was placed on waivers Monday as part of the process to remove him from the 40-man roster. He cleared and was outrighted to Tacoma. Moore is just 26 compared to Negron, who is 33. Seattle signed Moore, who was a minor league free agent, to a major league contract in the offseason. That basically put him on the roster.
“Dylan had a really good camp,” Servais said. “Defensive versatility is big in that spot. I liked the way he swung the bat and the way he ran the bases as well. He’s going to play. We are going to give regulars days off as we get going because I want to make sure we continue to develop Dylan Moore.”
Name, Number, Bats/Throws
- Braden Bishop, No. 5, R/R
- Jay Bruce, No. 32, L/L
- Mitch Haniger, No. 17, R/R
- Domingo Santana, No. 16, R/R
- Ichiro*, No. 51, L/R
With Smith out with the injured elbow, Bishop, a former UW standout, got invited on the trip as outfield depth. While the team is expected to move Mitch Haniger from right field to center field to start the games vs. the A’s, Bishop could appear as a defensive replacement, allowing Haniger to move back to right field. Bishop earned the spot with his play in spring, hitting .379 with a double and three homers and 12 RBI.
Ichiro’s future won’t be decided until after the trip. It’s difficult to see him remaining on the active roster. He’s looked every bit of 45 years old this spring with just two hits in 25 at-bats and nine strikeouts. Perhaps if Smith had a setback in his recovery from the elbow strain, the Mariners might keep Ichiro on the roster — perhaps a ceremonial goodbye in the opening series vs. the Red Sox. But at this point, Bishop is a better player and more available to contribute if Smith isn’t ready to play.