By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Miguel Olivo is returning to the Seattle Mariners sometime in the next few days, which means someone on the 25-man roster will have to come off.
The candidates: rookie Alex Liddi, outfielder Casper Wells and 25th man-on-the-roster Chone Figgins.
When Liddi mangled a fly ball in the left field corner Wednesday, it didn’t help his cause. When he doubled, then hit a grand slam home run to help Seattle win, it may have further secured his position.
Wells is a right-handed hitting defensive specialist, as good an outfielder as the team has. He often replaces Mike Carp or Liddi in left field late in games.
What about Figgins?
It’s a question being asked by players in the Mariners clubhouse. To a man, they like Figgins. The reality, however, is if someone has to leave to make room for Olivo, why not a player who rarely plays?
The Mariners have better defensive reserves for the infield and outfield. When they’ve needed a pinch runner in recent weeks, it has been Munenori Kawasaki, not Figgins.
He has started twice in the last 18 games, and in his last 24 games is batting .133.
Yes, there’s a contract that will pay him $17 million this year and next. General manager Jack Zduriencik signed Figgins to a four-year deal and has watched him lose his job each of the last 21/2 seasons.
So, eat the contract and release Figgins?
That’s a tough admission of failure for any GM, eating $17 million of a deal. Still, it’s one that at least as to be considered.
Guti runs without pain
Franklin Gutierrez cleared a hurdle Wednesday, running without pain in the outfield of Safeco Field before the Mariners game.
That allowed the team to cautiously outline a return for Gutierrez, who hasn’t played a game in 2012.
“He’s going to work out with us this week, then play games in Arizona with the extended spring training guys next week,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’ll probably play five or six games there, then start a 20-game minor league rehab assignment.”
Best-case scenario, that gets Gutierrez back with the team around June 21-22. What are the chances of Gutierrez overcoming a variety of ailments that have cost him months in the last season-plus?
“I just want to get and stay healthy and play baseball,” Gutierrez said. “I’m doing all I can to make that happen.”
Olivo continued to play for the Tacoma Rainiers on Wednesday, and will be re-evaluated as soon as today. The veteran catcher who strained a groin muscle May 1 is anxious to return, and the Mariners want him back behind the plate. … Over his last three starts, Kevin Millwood is 3-0 with a 0.41 earned run aveage, with 15 strikeouts in 22 innings. … Lucas Luetge is at it again. The rookie came in Wednesday, faced and retired one batter and has now appeared in 17 major league games — worked 11 innings — without allowing a run. That’s a team record for the beginning of a career. As for the quick in-and-out appearances? “I warm up a lot and face one hitter,” Luetge said. “That’s the life of a left-handed specialist.”