Mariners notebook: Furbush, Clevenger choose free agency

By Bob Dutton

The News Tribune

SEATTLE — Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush opted to continue his recovery from rotator-cuff surgery as a free agent rather than accept an outright assignment by the Mariners to Triple-A Tacoma after clearing waivers.

Catcher Steve Clevenger also choose free agency rather than accept outright assignments. The Mariners are still awaiting a decision from right-handed reliever Ryan Cook. All three players ended the season on the 60-day disabled list.

The Mariners assigned all three to the Rainiers earlier this week when they cleared waivers after being removed from the 40-man roster. All three had sufficient major-league service to reject the assignment.

Furbush, 30, underwent surgery in August after a series of non-surgical approaches failed to alleviate a problem that surfaced following a July 7, 2015 outing against Detroit. He is not expected to pitch until 2018.

“I tried to work as hard as I could (to avoid surgery),” Furbush said in August. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. But part of me is excited to get this done because I know, now, it’s the real road to recovery.”

Furbush was 12-21 with a 4.02 ERA in 230 games for the Mariners over five seasons after being acquired from Detroit in a multi-player trade on July 30, 2011. He had a 2.08 ERA over 33 appearances in 2015 prior to his injury.

The injury virtually guaranteed the Mariners would remove him from their 40-man roster. Not only was he taking a space while being unable to perform, but he was also eligible for arbitration after making $1.6 million.

Clevenger’s one-year tenure ended in a Sept. 23 suspension after posting racially insensitive messages on Twitter. At the time, he was recovering from a broken finger on his right hand, which he suffered in a June 29 game against Pittsburgh.

Prior to the injury, he batted .221 in 22 games with one homer and seven RBIs.

The Mariners acquired Clevenger, 30, from Baltimore in a Dec. 2, 2015 trade for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser.

Cook, 29, spent the entire season on the disabled list after suffering a torn back muscle in spring training. He signed with the Mariners as a free agent on Jan. 7, 2016 after pitching the five previous seasons with three clubs.

Mariners claim lefty reliever

The Mariners also added a lefty reliever Friday when they acquired Dean Kiekhefer in a waiver claim from St. Louis.

Kiekhefer, 27, had a 5.32 ERA in 26 games this season in five tours for the Cardinals while also going also 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 29 games for Triple-A Memphis.

“He’s an outstanding strike-thrower who typically keeps it on the ground,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He also has a strong track record vs. left-handed hitters. The fact that he’s still optionable only enhances the appeal.”

Kiekhefer has a 2.67 ERA in 265 games over seven minor-league season since his selection by the Cardinals in the 36th round of the 2010 draft. He is 10-5 with a 2.38 ERA over last three seasons in 119 games at Memphis.

Adding Kiekhefer leaves the Mariners with four openings on their 40-man roster.

O’Neill honored again

Outfielder Tyler O’Neill, generally viewed as the Mariners’ top prospect, added another award to his growing collection after a breakout season in leading Double-A Jackson to the Southern League title.

O’Neill, 21, is the Randal Echlin Memorial Award recipient for a second straight year. The award is given by the Canadian Baseball Network and seeks to recognize the top offensive performance in the minor leagues by a Canadian native.

The Mariners previously recognized O’Neill as the top hitter in their minor-league system. He batted .293 in 130 games at Jackson with 24 homers and 102 RBIs.

O’Neill is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he is batting .333 (19-for-57) for the Peoria Javelinas with three homers and nine RBIs in 13 games. He will play Saturday in the the Fall Stars Game.

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