Mariners notebook: Miranda likely pick to start spring opener

PEORIA, Ariz. — Left-hander Ariel Miranda, who appears likely to open the season in the bullpen, is the Mariners’ tentative choice to start Saturday against San Diego in the Cactus League opener at Peoria Stadium.

Miranda, 28, made 10 starts in 11 appearances last season after the Mariners acquired him from Baltimore in a July 31 trade, but offseason moves that netted Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo nudged Miranda out of the projected rotation.

Manager Scott Servais said earlier in the week that Miranda would be stretched out as a starter for early spring games in order to serve as a hedge against an injury to a starting pitcher.

“We hope we get through camp without any injuries or hiccups,” Servais said. “If there is one, I hope he’s throwing well enough that he could step in and do that.”

Servais confirmed the tentative starting pitchers for the first four spring games.

Right-hander Chris Heston, 28, will start Sunday’s game against the Padres, and Gallardo is ticketed for Monday against Kansas City. Both of those games are also at Peoria Stadium.

Plans call for Felix Hernandez to make his spring debut Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Arizona.

The Mariners obtained Heston, 28, on Dec. 7 from the San Francisco Giants for a player to be named later. He missed much of last season because of a severe oblique injury after going 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA in 31 starts for the Giants in 2015.

The three games at Peoria Stadium start at 12:10 p.m. Pacific time. Tuesday’s game against the White Sox starts at 12:05 p.m. All four will be carried on 710 ESPN, but none of the games are televised.

Cishek takes next step

It was just 25 throws from 60 feet on flat ground, but reliever Steve Cishek called it “an exciting day for me.”

Cishek tested his repaired left hip by playing catch this spring for the first time. He underwent surgery Oct. 12 in Nashville, Tenn., to repair a torn labrum.

“There’s some discomfort (in the hip),” he said, “but the joint has to get used to that motion again. I was surprised at how good it actually felt.

“My arm felt great. I just felt like I was flicking the ball, and it was coming out with some life behind it. I was excited.”

While the Mariners aren’t ruling out Cishek being ready when the season opens April 3 in Houston, they concede a mid-April return is more likely.

For now, Cishek remains on a day-by-day evaluation program. If he encounters no day-after problems Wednesday, he is likely to play catch again on Thursday.

Cishek, 30, was 4-6 with a 2.81 ERA last season in 62 games. He also had 25 saves in 31 chances while serving as the closer before his hip forced him to the disabled list in early August.

When he returned after an 18-day absence, Cishek served as a setup reliever for Edwin Diaz.

Plans for Valencia

Look for newcomer Danny Valencia to spend most of his time this spring at first base as the Mariners work through their 36-game Cactus League schedule.

Tentative plans call for Valencia, 32, to split time at first base this season in a platoon setup with Dan Vogelbach in addition to other duties.

“He will play a day or two at third and get some time in the outfield,” manager Scott Servais said, “but I want to get him comfortable there at first base.”

Valencia has been primarily a third baseman through his seven big-league seasons, but he started 15 games last year at first base while playing for Oakland.

“It’s going to be challenging,” he said, “but I worked pretty hard this offseason over there. I’ve had experience there in the past. So it’s not completely new to me. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think I’ll be all right over there.”

Martin’s arrival

Center fielder Leonys Martin could join the workouts as soon as Wednesday.

It all depends on developments in Miami, where Martin is expected to testify in a federal trial dealing with the human trafficking of Cuban ballplayers defecting to other countries in order to play in the United States.

“He could be in the air (Tuesday night),” Servais said. “We’ll see. That’s not definite. It’s just tentative. We need Leonys in here. We miss him, we miss his personality in the clubhouse. You’ll hear him when he gets here.”

Martin is the only player on the 62-man roster not in camp.

Offer declined

The Dodgers offered left-handed swingman Vidal Nuno back to the Mariners prior to a Sunday trade that sent him to Baltimore for minor-league righty Ryan Moseley.

The Mariners declined. Club officials said other offseason moves left no room for Nuno, who is in line to make $1.125 million. The Mariners traded Nuno to the Dodgers on Nov. 7, 2016, for catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Nuno, 29, was 2-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 87 games, including 11 starts, for the Mariners, who acquired him with first baseman Mark Trumbo from Arizona in a June 3, 2015, trade for catcher Welington Castillo and three minor-league players.

Minor-league minicamp

A minicamp for 38 minor-league players began Saturday and will continue until full minor-league workouts begin March 8 for pitchers and catchers, and March 11 for infielders and outfielders.

The minicamp roster includes the three members of the Tacoma News Tribune’s Top 10 propsects list who are not in big-league camp: outfielder Kyle Lewis, right-handed pitchers Nick Neidert and shortstop Drew Jackson.

Lewis is still recovering from knee surgery and isn’t expected to take part in game action until mid-July.

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