My take on the Mariners’ 25-man roster less than two weeks until opening day

Not too many days have passed this month when someone hasn’t asked what I think the Mariners’ final 25-man roster will be. For the most part, I’ve shrugged my shoulders and said it’s impossible to assemble a roster at this point. Guys surprise, guys disappoint, guys get hurt, guys get traded, guys g

et sent down to the minors.

Now that we’re inside two weeks remaining before the April 1 opener at Oakland, I thought I’d take a stab at the roster. Let’s make a few things perfectly clear here:

• This 25-man roster is based on who’s currently in camp. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners made a few late moves to bolster the bullpen or to deal with a couple of players who are out of options, such as Cesar Jimenez and Josh Wilson.

• With some real uncertainty at the back end of the starting rotation, I’m going with a 12-man pitching staff to make sure there are plenty of relief options, especially in long relief.

• Speaking of the rotation, Michael Pineda doesn’t make my team. I’ve seen hitters wait for that fastball and often crush it game after game, and the lack of a quality changeup could be a real challenge for Pineda if he starts the season in the big leagues. To me, it’ll be better to let him spend a month or so at Class AAA Tacoma and have a guy like left-hander Luke French, with major league experience, pitch out of the fifth spot to start the season.

• I’ve got French in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but right-hander David Pauley easily could be there. Pauley hasn’t been stretched out as much as French so far in spring training.

• Unless Milton Bradley crumbles, he starts the season in left field and Michael Saunders starts at Class AAA Tacoma. The Mariners need to ride the “good Milton” as long as they can and Saunders, who needs to play on a regular basis, would be only a phone call away.

• Yes, Matt Tuiasosopo does make my team. I’m not sure it’s good for Tui to spend most of his time on the bench. However, the Mariners need a right-handed bat among their backups and Tui’s versatility is another plus.

• No, Dustin Ackley doesn’t make it. He needs more time in the field at second base, but there seems little doubt he’ll be in the big leagues soon.

• I could easily see the Mariners putting Josh Wilson on the roster instead of Tui because Wilson is out of options. But isn’t Josh Wilson the same middle/corner infield player as Adam Kennedy?

• I ran this plan past a cohort who jumped when he saw Tom Wilhelmsen in the bullpen. Who else makes that pen if not Wilhelmsen (who throws a nice fastball and has good poise on the mound)? Fabio Castro? Royce Ring?

• Four non-roster players make my team – relievers Chris Ray and Jamey Wright, backup outfielder Ryan Langerhans and backup infielder Adam Kennedy. If Miguel Olivo isn’t healthy by opening day because of his groin injury, it would mean a non-roster catcher would make it (barring trade) – either Josh Bard or Chris Gimenez.

• Making room for four non-roster guys could be a challenge. One spot opened up last week when the Pirates claimed pitcher Garrett Olson. Another is likely if/when the Mariners place left-handed pitcher Mauricio Robles (who’ll have elbow surgery this week) on the 60-day disabled list. We don’t know the severity of third baseman Matt Mangini’s reinjured quad, although I haven’t heard anything that remotely indicates a 60-day DL time for him.

We also don’t know exactly how the organization feels about left-handed reliever Jose Flores, who the Mariners picked up in the rule 5 draft. He hasn’t been that impressive in camp, so moving him clears a 40-man spot.

So that brings into the equation a couple of guys who are out of minor-league options – left-handed pitcher Cesar Jimenez and backup infielder Josh Wilson. It could come down to trying to deal risk losing one of them on a waiver claim. (Note: Jimenez could replace Wilhelmsen in the bullpen, but he doesn’t have the breaking pitch to be a real left-on-left lefty)

With that, here’s how I see the Mariners’ 25-man roster shaping up. Again, this is choosing from the players on hand and doesn’t factor a trade or waiver claim, which wouldn’t surprise me a bit (Non-roster players indicated by an asterisk):

Felix Hernandez
Jason Vargas
Doug Fister
Erik Bedard
Luke French

Brandon League
Chris Ray*
Josh Lueke
Aaron Laffey
Jamey Wright*
Tom Wilhelmsen
David Pauley

Miguel Olivo
Adam Moore

First base: Justin Smoak
Second base: Brendan Ryan
Shortstop: Jack Wilson
Third base: Chone Figgins
Left field: Milton Bradley
Center field: Franklin Gutierrez
Right field: Ichiro Suzuki
DH: Jack Cust

(Note: Manager Eric Wedge says he may announce soon his second-shortstop combination – either Jack Wilson at short and Brendan Ryan at second, or vice-versa)

Outfield: Ryan Langerhans*
Infield: Adam Kennedy*
Infield/outfield: Matt Tuiasosopo

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