The Mariners held their yearly pre-Spring Training media luncheon yesterday, and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has some highlights from sessions with manager Lloyd McClendon and GM Jack Zduriencik…
- There’s been a bit of speculation that left-hander J.A. Happ, acquired from the Blue Jays in the Michael Saunders trade, would pitch out of the bullpen, but McClendon quickly squashed that chatter. “We didn’t acquire Happ to pitch out of the bullpen,” McClendon said. “We can put all of that to rest. He will be pitching in our rotation.”
- McClendon added that there will be a competition for only one spot in the rotation, though he declined to specify who on the club’s roster will definitively be joining Happ, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation. Dutton, however, writes that “all signs point” to James Paxton being guaranteed a spot, meaning that the fifth slot in the rotation will be a battle between Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias and possibly Erasmo Ramirez.
- Others could join that competition, as Zduriencik told the media that he’s hopeful of adding another starting pitcher, although further additions would likely come in the form of minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. The Mariners would like any non-roster invitees to be able to provide depth in the minors, which may be a tough sell, Dutton notes, as veteran starters that will have to settle for minor league deals may prefer to sign with a club that presents a clearer path to a Major League roster spot.
- The Mariners are likely to sign a veteran outfielder as well, Dutton writes. Zduriencik acknowledged that the team “may do a few little tinkerings” before Spring Training to bring in a veteran player or two that could compete for a job. Seattle has been linked to Endy Chavez on multiple occasions.
- Seattle is very happy with Jesus Montero’s offseason conditioning, as the former top prospect has lost roughly 40 pounds and is down to the team’s target weight of 235 pounds. Said Zduriencik of Montero: “He appears to be a guy who, maybe, the lights have gone on for him. He’s going to get a chance in spring training. We’ll see.”
- Left-hander Joe Beimel is still a “possibility” for the club, Dutton writes. The 37-year-old Beimel (38 in April) posted a 2.20 ERA with 5.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 49.6 percent ground-ball rate in 45 innings for Seattle last season. He also held left-handed hitters to a paltry .188/.217/.288 batting line.
- Dutton also provides updates on a few of the club’s top prospects and injury updates on Elias, Willie Bloomquist, Danny Hultzen and Dustin Ackley in addition to discussing what is likely to be a Spring battle between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor to see who will be the Mariners’ everyday shortstop. The entire roundup is worth a look for Mariners fans.