The Mariners on Sunday cut four pitchers off their Major League roster, including starting candidates Chris Heston and Cody Martin.
PEORIA, Ariz. — One of the best pieces of news for the Mariners in spring training has been the health of the team’s five-man starting rotation — with now eight days to go until the season opens, all are healthy.
That, though, means there is now little room left in spring camp for the pitchers the Mariners brought in as starting rotation insurance. So on Sunday the Mariners sent two potential starting candidates out of their Major League camp, optioning Chris Heston to Class AAA Tacoma and re-assigning Cody Martin to the minor league camp.
Heston, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie with the Giants in 2015, was 1-1 with a 6.94 earned run average this spring. Martin, a non-roster invitee who had two starts with the Mariners last season, was 1-1 with a 4.38 era.
The Mariners also re-assigned relievers Nick Hagadone and Jean Machi, each also non-roster invitees, to the minor league camp. The moves leave the Mariners with 37 players in camp.
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“Innings are getting absorbed here by the guys that are going to be on our club so thought it was best to move those guys over keep them stretched out,” said manager Scott Servais.
Heston gave up six runs in 2.1 innings in his last outing on Tuesday. But otherwise Servais said he had a good spring.
“I like Chris Heston a lot,” Servais said. “He fits well on our team and certainly in our clubhouse. Real professional, he’s got some experience there but make a few adjustments to his delivery, get on top of the ball, see a little more depth to his sinker. He’s made some good adjustments, felt very comfortable out of the windup, not so much out of the stretch and that’s what got him the other night. He likes where he’s at, he knows he’s in it for the long haul in making those adjustments so I think you will see him at some point in Seattle.’’
Machi and Hagadone were also battling a numbers game in the bullpen.
Hagadone, a Sumner High grad who played at the University of Washington, is attempting to come back after missing last year with an elbow injury.
“That’s the big thing, he needs to stay healthy and be reliable and durable,” Servais said. “Nick had a history of maybe having the big arm, the 94, 95 left-handed. The injury bug has bitten him a little bit but the one thing he did to open some eyes here is he did throw strikes and he did get his breaking ball over and I thought that would be a challenge for him seeing him early in camp — he does it a little bit differently with the really high slot sometimes those guys have hard a time landing the breaking ball, such a small window to get the ball in there for a strike, He did it. I thought he threw the ball very well, showed very well for a guy that we didn’t really have on the radar until I think late January. Seeing him in the bullpen and our guys say let’s take a shot, bring him to camp he is from the Northwest. He showed very well. We’ll see. He’ll have to stay healthy and pitch well in Tacoma to work his way into our mix.’’
The moves leave the Mariners with James Pazos and Dean Kiekhefer likely competing for one spot as the final left-hander out of the bullpen. Lefty Dillon Overton has pitched well all spring, including his start on Saturday vs. the Rangers. After his outing, Servais said the team plans to keep him stretched out as a starter for the time being.
Servais said Sunday the team will likely open with an eight-man bullpen, and that he’d like to have at least more than one lefty — Marc Rzepczynski is already in line to be on the roster.
“Yeah we are looking at an eight-man bullpen,” he said. “. … Right-handed, left-handed, we’re not quite sure where we go yet with that. Again, looking at those first 10 days out, we play Houston seven times, they are a very balanced team with the hitters they have added and Anaheim tends to be a little more right-handed. Just trying to get the best guys we can who can serve in multiple roles out of the bullpen and help us out. No final decision has been made yet who that is going to be, but left, right probably doesn’t play into maybe as much as people think.’’
Of the eight bullpen spots, six are locked up — closer Edwin Diaz, Rzepczynski and right-handers Dan Altavilla, Nick Vincent, Evan Scribner and Casey Fien.
Besides Pazos and Kiekhefer, the only other completely healthy reliever in camp is right-hander Jonathan Aro. Both Shae Simmons (forearm) and Steve Cishek (hip) won’t be ready for opening day. Tony Zych also does not seem to be a candidate for the opening day roster. Zych, who is coming off of off-season elbow surgery, is scheduled to pitch for the first time this spring on Sunday. Servais, though, said it’s unlikely Zych will be on the Opening Day roster, saying the team has a plan to get him the necessary innings to be ready for the season and that the timeline won’t likely work out for Zych to be ready for the April 3 opener at Houston.
“I’m not expecting him to break with us,” Servais said. “There’s a program, protocol spaced out to make sure he gets the proper number of innings like a normal spring training, which kind of ran out of time. We’ll see how he throws today, first time in a spring training game, see what happens.’’
Could the Mariners go with Aro or Kiekhefer, neither of whom is on the 40-man roster? Seattle could change its plans for Overton. Also this is time the year that a slew of roster moves are made as team narrow down to their opening day 25. That provides general manager Jerry Dipoto plenty of opportunities to pick a candidate for that eighth spot as well.
Here are a few other personnel notes:
— Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz remain bothered with a head cold and will not play in Sunday’s game against the Reds.
— Outfielder Jarrod Dyson won’t play against the Reds but should be able to get some work in a minor league game — he has been battling hamstring fatigue. “Yes, he’s going to test it a little today and see where he’s at there,” Servais said. “He might start getting some at-bats on the Minor League side where we can control how much he’s running on the bases, but he’s still seeing live pitching and making sure he’s ready to go.”