Spring training-terminal phase

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners
Despite a great spring, outfielder Guillermo Heredia could be squeezed off the roster if the Mariners leave Peoria with an eight man bullpen and two utility players. 

With the WBC heading into the championship round, our missing Mariners should begin flocking back to Mariners camp in Peoria any day now.  With the Dominican Republic and Venezuela eliminated, and Drew Smyly having served his one game start for team USA, only closer Edwin Diaz, closing for surprising team Puerto Rico should be left AWOL from the M’s.

Monday is an off-day, so the M’s should be playing more starters, now that they’re all in camp. And the M’s have some serious decisions to make.

The Bullpen

We know one guy who’s going to start in the bullpen-Diaz, when the WBC is settled.  We know a couple of guys who aren’t.  Steve Cishek and Shae Simmons likely won’t be sufficiently recovered from injuries to join the team in Houston on April 3rd. It’s also hard to imagine Tony Zych can be ready by the opener.

The M’s are making noises about an eight man bullpen to open the season, so the question is who, besides Diaz, are those eight guys?  The M’s don’t have a pile of household names as relief candidates, but here are the likely suspects.

  • The M’s laid out a pile of cash for Mark Rzepczynski to be their lefty go-to guy, so Scrabble is a sure bet.
  • Right-hander Evan Scribner spent almost all of last season on the DL, and he’s had a respectable spring.  The Mariners like that he throws strikes and believe his penchant for allowing home runs will benefit from the Safeco Cure.
  • Though he has had his moments of struggle, Nick Vincent will certainly be among those who break camp with the big league club . . . unless he isn’t

After these guys it’s sort of Katie bar the door. Dan Altavilla, Casey Fien, Micah Owings are right-handers that could be in the pile.  The battle for a second lefty-or more lefties given the right handed injury list-could include Ariel Miranda, James Pazos, Dean Kiekhefer and Nick Hagadone.

Finally, there is the whole question of bullpen roles.  Will they be the traditional ones we’ve come to see with a closer, set-up guys, and middle innings pitchers?  Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais made noises months ago that they were comfortable in moving Diaz around in high leverage situations as the Indians used Andrew Miller.  Is that still a plan? Or is the bullpen picture too muddled with injuries to make that work effectively?  It will be interesting to find out.

The outfield and utility situation

Utility man Taylor Motter played left field for part of yesterday’s game. Weird, eh? Maybe, maybe not. The Mariners will very shortly be faced with the conundrum of whether to carry four outfielders or two utility players.  Dipoto and Servais have both championed a roster that exudes flexibility, so the more positions a guy can play, the better. We’ve seen Ryan O’Malley play the outfield before, so if Motter can effectively patrol Safeco’s pastures then good for him.  The starting outfield seems set with Jarrod Dyson in left, Leonys Martin in center, and Mitch Haniger in right.  Keeping two utility players and an eight man bullpen would seem to make it impossible to carry a fourth outfielder, sending Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel to Tacoma. Still some time left to sort this out and make a final decision, but it is certainly one of the few left to make.

As the long spring camp enters its terminal phase, the roster jells and regulars play much more, there are still some still some important decisions to be made.  It should be interesting



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