Mariners’ Wedge will have his 25 by the end of the day

  • By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. — There’s still an abstract feel to the Seattle Mariners’ roster after a flurry of personnel moves Monday.

The team goes into its final Arizona spring training game today with 26 healthy players to choose for the 25 spots on the opening-day roster. Manager Eric Wedge said he’ll

have his 25 by the end of the day.

“Unless something significant comes our way that we don’t expect, we plan to have our team hopefully by tomorrow afternoon,” Wedge said after the Mariners’ 7-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Wedge guarded his words because there’s always the chance of a late signing, trade or surprise.

Monday’s moves were intriguing, if not a surprise on one front.

The Mariners released infielder Josh Wilson, who had seemed secure because of his versatility and his place on the 40-man major league roster. The Mariners had signed Wilson to a one-year, $750,000 contract in December, a deal that avoided arbitration with him.

Wilson’s status seemed even more secure after the Mariners optioned infielder/outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo to Tacoma on Sunday. Tuiasosopo had been the best of the right-handed-hitting bench possibilities, batting .300 with one home run and eight RBI. Wilson batted .239.

It leaves the Mariners with two backup infielders — left-handed-hitting Adam Kennedy, a non-roster invitee who was added to the 40-man roster Monday, and Luis Rodriguez, a switch-hitter who still must be added to the 40-man because he’s a non-roster invitee.

Wedge said that there could be some complex maneuvering before the roster is set.

“We’re still working to finalize everything, and it’s really hard to talk about until we do finalize everything,” he said. “Ultimately, as we’re breaking with our club, we look for things that are complimentary of each other in regard to our players in different areas of our team. Josh has done a good job here the last couple of years and he’s a good ballplayer. But ultimately we felt like there was a better fit, initially anyway, with some of the other guys.”

In order, here were the Mariners’ moves Monday:

n They optioned left-handed pitcher Luke French to Class AAA Tacoma.

n Catchers Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez, both non-roster players, were re-assigned to the minor-league camp.

n Non-roster relief pitchers Chris Ray and Jamey Wright were added to the 40-man roster.

nWilson was released.

n Kennedy was added to the 40-man roster.

Where does it leave the Mariners? With more work to do.

Not including injured Shawn Kelley, David Aardsma and Nate Robertson, 13 pitchers remain in the big-league camp. That’s one more than the Mariners are expected to begin the season with, which would put left-hander Cesar Jimenez or right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen on the bubble.

Jimenez has struggled throughout spring training — he has a 9.82 ERA and hasn’t pitched a 1-2-3 inning all spring. However, he is out of minor league options and the Mariners risk losing him on waivers if they try to send him down.

Wilhelmsen has been one of the pleasant surprises of spring training, with a 2.70 ERA in 10 exhibition innings. However, he hasn’t pitched above the Class A level.

There’s also the matter of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who has been ill with stomach problems and hasn’t played since March 19. Wedge said the team still hasn’t gotten all results from the latest round of medical tests on Gutierrez.

“He was actually able to come out, run around and play some catch today,” Wedge said. “He’s had two days in a row where he’s felt better. As silly as that sounds, it’s actually a step. It’s been a while for him.

“But we’re just trying to get everything right for him. We’re really hopeful to have a better idea these next couple of days.”

Still, it’s unlikely that Gutierrez will be ready for the opener. Michael Saunders and non-roster outfielder Ryan Langerhans have gotten most of the playing time in center field for more than a week.

“We’re still working through it,” Wedge said. “We’ve been playing Saunders and Langerhans out there quite a bit in preparing for Guti not being ready.”

Rotation is set

Wedge announced the starting rotation — right-hander Felix Hernandez, left-hander Jason Vargas, right-hander Doug Fister, left-hander Erik Bedard and rookie right-hander Michael Pineda. It was hardly a surprise because that’s how the Mariners had lined up their starters the past two weeks.

Going into spring training, the Mariners weren’t sure if Bedard and Pineda would be where they are now.

Bedard was coming off three shoulder operations in the past three years and Pineda is a rookie with a 98 mph fastball and a good slider but a developing changeup. Bedard went 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA and Pineda 0-0, 2.12.

Wedge said Pineda proved the past month that he can handle the ups and downs against major league hitters.

“He’s a guy who was very consistent. He kept getting better,” Wedge said. “As we lengthened him out, he handled that very well. There were certain situations that we felt like he handled very well that he’ll have to go through during the course of the regular season. All that enters into it.”

Not the time for Tui

Matt Tuiasosopo batted .300 during his time in big-league camp, and only three other players had more than his eight RBI. Still, another strong spring training offensively wasn’t enough for Tuiasosopo, who the Mariners optioned Sunday to Class AAA Tacoma.

“I feel very strongly this is the exact right thing to do for him at this point in time,” Wedge said. “He needs to go down and play. He played sporadically up here the last couple years.”

The theory is that Tuiasosopo, like many young players, needs to play on an everyday basis to stay sharp and keeping him in the big leagues for only a few at-bats a week would hurt his development.

“He’s still a young man at 25,” Wedge said (Tuiasosopo actually turns 25 on May 10). “I’ve seen some things in his bat that lead me to believe he has a chance to be a solid big-league player. But he needs to work on some things and the only way to do that is to go down and play. So for him, as tough as it may be, this is without a doubt the right thing to do.”

The move raised a few eyebrows because Tuiasosopo represented the best remaining right-handed hitter among the bench candidates.

“If we wanted to be selfish, facing some left-handers we’d keep him up here and play him one day a week and we’re back on that merry-go-round,” Wedge said. “But that’s just not the right thing to do for him.”

Today in camp

Mariners at Rockies, 1:05 p.m. at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale (FSN TV and ESPN 710 AM radio). Right-hander Doug Fister will make his final spring start for the Mariners against right-hander Jhoulys Chacin of the Rockies.

Of note

Jason Vargas’ smooth spring training ended with a rough outing Monday, when he allowed 11 hits and five runs in the Mariners’ 7-6 victory over the Rockies. It inflated his ERA from 2.25 to 4.24. “I think it’s good to have to work a little bit at certain points in time this spring,” Wedge said. “It helps you be that much stronger once you get into the season.” … The Mariners won with two runs in the ninth inning off Rockies right-hander Matt Belisle. Justin Smoak led off with a single and scored on Michael Saunders’ single that got away from the Rockies’ right fielder for an error. Catcher Steven Baron followed with an opposite-field single down the right field line to score Saunders with the winning run. … Smoak went 2-for-4 and hit his second spring training homer run _ and his first right-handed _ with a solo drive over the center field fence in the sixth inning. … DH Jack Cust, who came out of Sunday’s game because of back stiffness, returned to the lineup Monday and went 0-for-4. … The patch that the Mariners will wear on their uniforms this year honoring late broadcaster Dave Niehaus will be sold to the public for $10. The oval-shaped patch will be available at the Mariners’ team stores, including Alderwood Mall, beginning April 8. Proceeds will benefit the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog and follow his Twitter updates on the team at @kirbyarnold.

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