PEORIA, Ariz. — After 26 games in 26 days, the Mariners rested.
The Mariners had a scheduled off day March 1, one day after they opened their Cactus League schedule. Their only other scheduled off day came Sunday, one day before their final game of the Cactus League schedule — usually a throwaway game the starters barely play — on Monday.
With Mariners manager Scott Servais wanting to make sure players had a full day off from activity Sunday and also wanting to treat his coaching staff to a day on the golf course, he spent Saturday meeting with players competing for the last spots on the 26-man opening-day roster and informing them of the organization’s decision.
Servais announced some of those decisions during an in-game interview with ROOT Sports on Saturday night and also relayed the information in his postgame video call with local media, specifically mentioning how emotional Taylor Trammell became when he found out he would make the opening-day roster.
In their meeting, Servais asked him, “What do you think about if you were in our starting lineup on opening night?”
“He had his mask on and we were socially distanced, so I said, ‘You can take the mask off,’” Servais said. “He had this big smile on his face. He actually teared up. It’s a lot for these young kids. They’ve been thinking about it their whole lives and what they go through and what their families go through to get to that point.”
Servais also confirmed right-hander Justin Dunn beat out left-hander Nick Margevicius for the sixth spot in the rotation. Margevicius will pitch out of the bullpen. A few weeks ago, Servais seemed resistant to having Margevicius or Dunn moving to a relief role. But he doesn’t have final say on the roster. And the delayed start of the Class AAA season is another factor in the decision.
“First of all, it’s another left-hander in your bullpen, and I like the fact Marge is stretched out,” Servais said. “He can give you multiple innings out of the bullpen, and I think you need one of those guys down there. With a six-man rotation you have one less guy in the bullpen to play with, so if a starter gives you a short outing, Marge can come in that ballgame and bridge the gap, or he can finish off games by giving you extended innings.”
Servais also said right-hander Will Vest, the Mariners’ Rule 5 draft choice in December, has made the team. As a Rule 5 pick, Vest must remain on the active roster for the entire season. If he’s removed he must be offered back to his previous team, the Detroit Tigers.
But does that mean the roster is completely finalized? Not quite.
The status of starting center fielder Kyle Lewis leaves the roster unfinished. Lewis was diagnosed with a bone bruise to the outside of his right knee on Saturday after colliding with the wall in a game against the Dodgers on Monday.
Initially, the Mariners thought it was just a minor contusion and that Lewis would miss a day or two. But inflammation and discomfort is still there and not diminishing as expected.
With Lewis not expected to play Monday, it leaves his availability for opening day in doubt. Even if the knee comes around, Lewis would have only the workout Wednesday as preparation. It would be nine days without any real game reps.
“We’ll see how Kyle is coming along and progressing,” Servais said. “I’m very hopeful that he can be available for us on opening night. But if he’s not, we’ll adjust. We need to play the long game on this. I know we get all excited about April 1 and opening night and what it means to our team, but we have 161 games to play after that. So just trying to rush back for one night, we’re not going to do that.”
The Mariners could try and wait a few days into the season to see if Lewis can avoid the injured list. The team can backdate a stint on the injured list up to three days because Lewis won’t have played in Cactus League games.
If Lewis does go on the injured list, Jake Fraley would likely take the roster spot with Trammell starting in center and Fraley and Jose Marmolejos handling left field with utility player Sam Haggerty able to step in if needed.
Servais also hasn’t finalized the last spot in the bullpen. With Vest and Margevicius given spots, they join projected closer Rafael Montero and veteran right-handers Kendall Graveman and Keynan Middleton.
That leaves two spots with three relievers left. Right-hander Casey Sadler seems to have a spot locked up because he’s out of minor-league options and would have to be designated for assignment if he doesn’t make the team.
That leaves right-handers Drew Steckenrider and Domingo Tapia vying for the last spot. Tapia suffered a mild oblique early in camp, but threw a live batting practice session two days ago and looked impressive with his sinking fastball sitting between 96-99 mph. He can be optioned to the alternate training site or start the season in the injured list.
Steckenrider, who briefly served as the Marlins closer in 2018 before arm issues sidetracked his career, is a nonroster invite and would need to be added to the 40-man roster. The Mariners will be able to create an open space by placing reliever Ken Giles on the 60-day injured list because he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch this season.
“Domingo will travel with us to Seattle,” Servais said. “We don’t have to make any of those final roster decisions until right up to opening day. Now that you have the alternate site guys up there too, if they don’t ultimately make our roster, they will slide over to the alternate site and they’ll be preparing to help us out at some point.”