PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners moved a step closer to finalizing their opening-day roster, officially announcing that hard-throwing right-hander Matt Brash would be the fifth starter in the rotation.

The young Canadian right-hander will make his MLB debut in the Mariners’ fifth game of the season, which is scheduled for April 12 against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“We decided to go ahead and make a decision there, and Matt Brash will open the season with the big-league club,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I told him, ‘You’ll actually get a chance to pitch this time.’ I promised him that he will start the fifth game of the season for us.”

Servais was referencing the Mariners calling up Brash up for the final week of the 2021 season but not actually pitching in a game.

“Just a really cool moment,” Brash said. “It just kind of shows that all the hard work that I’ve done even before I got to the Mariners to get my body in shape and get my arm in shape kind of pays off for that moment. I’m just super excited to get out there help the big-league club.”

Brash’s parents and sister are in Arizona, having made the trip south from Kingston, Ontario, over a week ago.

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“We’d been talking about it, but it was definitely special to share with them,” he said. “We’ve all come a long way and they’ve been with me every step of the way.”

With Brash slotted into the rotation, top pitching prospect George Kirby will start the season with Class AA Arkansas in a rotation that will also feature right-hander Levi Stoudt and eventually former first-round pick Emerson Hancock.

“I had a really good meeting with George Kirby and understanding where he’s at,” Servais said. “He didn’t have a huge workload last year. It’s really important that he continues to progress. George is going to pitch for us this year, there’s no question about it. And I think he’s going to be a huge part of how our season plays out. But for right now, he’ll start in the minor leagues.”

Brash made three appearance this spring, pitching 9 1/3 innings and allowing one run on three hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts. Kirby also made three appearances, pitching 7 2/3 innings and allowing six runs on nine hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts.

Those innings totals were labeled “a separator” beyond spring-training performances. Brash pitched a combined 97 1/3 innings between High-A Everett and Arkansas, while Kirby, who missed a month with shoulder fatigue, threw a combined 67 2/3 innings in Everett and Arkansas. Normally, teams don’t want to jump more than 30 to 35 innings in the following season due to injury concerns, particularly for young pitchers.

“Both the guys had good camps,” Servais said. “I think Matt’s maybe a little bit more ready to go or whatever you want to call it just based on what he did last year and what it looked like in this camp. But both guys have bright futures ahead of them and they’re going to pitch a lot for us this year. I think people understand that. And we all get excited about, ‘Oh, how’s the team breaking?’ We all know things change in a hurry as the season goes on. And you’re going to need a lot of people to chip in, in the rotation as well as in the bullpen.”

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While the team considered keeping both pitching on the same day for the first month of the season, it’s much easier to control innings and usage in the minor leagues.

“We discussed it even before we got into spring training here,” Servais said. “That’s something you could do. It’s certainly something we could pivot to. But I just thought with where we’re at right now, we’re trying to do what’s best for both players at this particular time. Once you go with that piggyback thing or whatever you call it, you have to have some really disciplined rules and stick with it.”

Servais didn’t want either pitcher to deal with that uncertainty.

“I just think it creates a lot of drama and stuff around it,” Servais said.

While Servais has his rotation set, the rest of the roster is still be determined. The Mariners will likely finalize their roster in the coming days. The deadline to submit their roster is Thursday morning. But they won’t take extra players with them on the flight to Minneapolis on Wednesday.  

All indications are the Mariners are still planning to keep 15 pitchers (five starters and 10 relievers) and 13 position players.

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Starting Rotation (5)

  • Robbie Ray, LHP
  • Logan Gilbert, RHP
  • Marco Gonzales, LHP
  • Chris Flexen, RHP
  • Matt Brash, RHP

Bullpen (10)

  • Paul Sewald, RHP
  • Drew Steckenrider, RHP
  • Sergio Romo, RHP
  • Erik Swanson, RHP
  • Diego Castillo, RHP
  • Andres Munoz, RHP
  • Yohan Ramirez, RHP
  • Wyatt Mills, RHP
  • Anthony Misiewicz, LHP
  • Justus Sheffield, LHP

Notes: With Ken Giles starting the season in the injured list due to a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand, right-hander Wyatt Mills makes the opening-day bullpen. But that’s as much of a guess as anything. Mills is on the 40-man roster, which gives him a slight advantage over Matt Festa and Devin Sweet. But the Mariners can easily open a 40-man spot by putting Evan White and Casey Sadler on the 60-day injured list.

“Almost all the guys we are talking about, they all have options available,” Servais said of the last few reliever spots. “It’s not like if the guy doesn’t make the team or if you want to flip guys out whatever, you lose the player. You’ll see a number of different arms go through those final couple spots unless somebody just takes the opportunity and runs with it, which often does happen. You’re hoping it happens. But yeah, those decisions will be made to get right down to the end.”

Outfielders (4)

  • Jarred Kelenic, CF/:LF
  • Mitch Haniger, RF
  • Jesse Winker, LF
  • Julio Rodriguez, CF/RF

Notes: Despite making that brilliant catch in center field on Friday, Billy Hamilton isn’t in this latest roster projection. While his elite speed and baserunning ability and plus center field skills are useful to teams, the Mariners believe utility man Dylan Moore can handle outfield duties, including center field if needed.

Infielders (6)

  • Ty France, 1B
  • Adam Frazier, 2B
  • J.P. Crawford, SS
  • Eugenio Suarez, 3B
  • Dylan Moore, utility
  • Abraham Toro, utility

Notes: The infield has been set since the trade for Winker and Suarez early in camp. Toro made his first appearance in left field on Friday for a few innings. This won’t be a regular occurrence. The Mariners just want to know that he can handle playing there if need be. Servais confirmed that Frazier will be the everyday second baseman. The team will avoid having him move around too much, allowing him to focus on one position and being the plus hitter that they desire.

“I trust D-Mo really anywhere we put him on the field other than pitch and catch,” Servais said. “He does a good job. He figures it out. His awareness is really good. I’m not too worried about the center field thing.”

Catchers (3)

  • Tom Murphy
  • Luis Torrens
  • Cal Raleigh

Notes: Based on the allotted playing time, specifically the pitchers that Cal Raleigh has been catching, it appears that the Mariners will carry three catchers on the roster. Asked about that possibility, Servais said this on Friday:

“I think there’s a really good chance that we could do that. It’s something that we’ve talked about very openly since camp started to where we’re at today. All the guys, they’ve had different highlight days or days where they played better or you felt better about where they’re at. I think pretty clearly, Luis Torrens probably had the best offensive camp of any of the three. He’s been really good, very consistent. Cal’s shown signs and making some improvements from last year. I think everybody understands what Murph brings to our team and how he helps our pitching staff. They all bring different things to the mix.”