By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Seattle Mariners’ search for a veteran to fill a role in the middle of their rotation now appears likely to include left-hander Randy Wolf and right-hander Zach Miner.
Both are close to reaching minor-league deals that include an invitation to big-league camp, which opens today when pitchers and catchers report to the Mariners’ renovated spring complex.
Wolf, 37, and Miner, 31, each have a history of elbow problems. Wolf missed last season while recovering from a second Tommy John surgery; Miner is still seeking to regain his form after missing the 2010 season.
“We’re going to create competition,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We’re going to give them a chance. They have track records. ‘Make this club.’ That’s the challenge. There are no restrictions.”
The club is seeking a veteran — at least one — to serve as a bridge in their rotation from All-Stars Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma to prospects such as Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
The top candidate for that role appears to be right-hander Scott Baker, another recovering Tommy John patient signed last month to a minor-league deal. He was 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA for Minnesota from 2005-11.
Wolf is 132-117 with a 4.20 ERA in 376 games over 14 seasons with six clubs. He was a combined 5-10 in 2012 with a 5.65 ERA in 30 games for Milwaukee and Baltimore.
He previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005.
Miner, 31, is a veteran of five big-league seasons, including four with Detroit, where he was 25-20 in 157 games as a swingman from 2006-09 before suffering an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
He spent last year in the Philadelphia organization, primarily at Class AAA Lehigh Valley, where he was 5-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 27 games, including 12 starts.
Miner will make $750,000 if he makes the big-league club, and the deal includes a June 15 opt-out clause if he’s in the minors.
The status of new closer Fernando Rodney’s status for the start of official workouts — plus that of his two-year deal for $14 million — hinges on a still-pending physical examination.
That examination, a routine part of all contracts, won’t take place before today. It’s uncertain whether the results will be available before the Mariners hold their first official workout Thursday for pitchers and catchers.
Rodney, 36, was 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA last season in 68 games at Tampa Bay while converting 37 of 45 save opportunities. He and the Mariners reached agreement last Thursday on a two-year deal.
Several top club officials, including club president Kevin Mather and Zduriencik, are heading to the Dominican Republic for Thursday’s opening of the club’s new academy in Boca Chica.
“The facility we had was run down,” Zduriencik said. “We really needed this, and we did it right.”
The new Dominican academy is a 24-acre complex that includes three full-sized fields and housing for 80 prospects in addition to coaches and trainers.
Take this as, perhaps, the definitive statement that the Mariners no longer view one-time top prospect Jesus Montero as a catcher: He isn’t scheduled to report until the full squad arrives.
Montero, 24, shifted last season to first base after being sent to Class AAA Tacoma in late May. He underwent surgery June 5 on his left knee and closed the season by serving a 50-game suspension for a drug violation.
The full squad reports Feb. 17. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 18.
Griffey in Cuba
Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. is currently in Cuba on a cultural and sports exchange program promoted by the Educational Alliance Travel agency in Boston.
“Baseball is big in my country, and this is a big island,” Griffey told The Associated Press. “It’s the little things we can do to help each other. (An
exchange of this type) has a great significance.”
Moyer joins Phillies broadcast team
An official announcement that another ex-Mariner, pitcher Jamie Moyer, is joining the Phillies’ broadcast team could come as soon as today, according to MLB.com.
Moyer and another former player, Matt Stairs, will replace Gary Matthews and Chris Wheeler on the Comcast SportsNet crew.
Moyer, 51, closed out a 25-year career in 2012 by making 10 starts for Colorado. He was 145-87 in 11 seasons with the Mariners from 1996-2006, and his 21 victories in 2003 remain a club record.