LAS VEGAS – With their shortstop situation as certain as hitting 21 at the blackjack table, the Seattle Mariners kept playing with numbers Friday.
At a time when most teams are trimming toward the 25-man opening-day roster, the Mariners added another player on a waiver claim, getting middle infielder Wilson Valdez from the New York Mets.
On Thursday, the Mariners claimed outfielder Abraham Nunez from the Kansas City Royals.
Valdez, expected to join the team today for its final exhibition game, becomes the 28th roster player in their major league camp. With the deadline at 9 p.m. today to be at 25, the Mariners essentially have five moves to make.
They also have pitchers Jeff Nelson and Aaron Sele, who were told Wednesday that they would make the team after signing minor league contracts in the offseason.
“It clouds up the picture, but that’s not all bad,” Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. “It gives you more options and we’ll see which way it goes.”
The health status of starting shortstop Pokey Reese is a huge factor in the uncertainty.
Reese returned to the lineup Friday after missing four games because of a sore right shoulder, and it was evident he was still hurting. He made three soft throws to first base after fielding ground balls, getting the runners out every time.
Reese also made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch of a popup in shallow left-center field and beat out an infield grounder for a single.
“I don’t know that it’s absolutely 100 percent,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “But with Pokey at shortstop, he covers so much ground and does so much defensively for us, that if there’s any way that he can play, we want him to. Certainly, we don’t want him to hurt himself but we want him to play if he can.”
If Reese can’t play, the Mariners’ final roster decisions become difficult.
Ramon Santiago has gotten most of the playing time at shortstop in the week that Reese hasn’t played. Santiago, however, is a non-roster player who would be added only if someone else is removed.
Valdez, who played 19 games last September with the Chicago White Sox, is considered a good defensive player who has shown potential with the bat. He batted .233 with the White Sox, with one home run and four RBI in 43 at-bats.
“He’s another option,” assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas said. “He can contribute some offensively, but a priority for us with the utility guys is catching the ball.”
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mariners moved injured pitcher Rafael Soriano (elbow surgery last summer) to the 60-day disabled list.
Garciaparra’s hit beats Cubs: Michael Garciaparra not only played in the same game as his famous older brother, he won it.
Garciaparra’s 10th inning single drove home Greg Dobbs with the winning run in the Mariners 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Cashman Field.
Garciaparra, whose 22nd birthday is today, is a minor league infielder in the M’s system who was brought up for the Las Vegas trip. Nomar Garciaparra started at shortstop for the Cubs.
Madritsch knocked around: Left-hander Bobby Madritsch struggled through his final exhibition start when he allowed 10 hits in five innings, including two home runs.
Corey Patterson homered off Madritsch in the first inning and Aramis Ramirez in the fifth for the Cubs, who also scored twice in the second inning on an RBI double by Jeromy Burnitz and a run-scoring single by Scott McClain.
The Mariners came back with solo home runs by Randy Winn and Raul Ibanez, then scored twice in the seventh inning to tie the score 4-4. Ichiro Suzuki scored the tying run when he raced home from second base on an infield single by Jeremy Reed.
Ibanez’s homer was his 27th RBI of the spring, tops in the American League.
Suzuki, who had hit safely in all 19 games he had played, had that streak broken when he went 0-for-5.
Guardado has good day: Hargrove pronounced Eddie Guardado ready for opening day after his closer pitched a successful inning in a minor league game at the Mariners’ facility in Peoria, Ariz.
Guardado, coming back from a strained right hamstring, faced three batters and got two ground-outs and a popup while pitching for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers against the Padres’ Portland farm club.
“He threw the ball well, he had good stuff, he came through it healthy,” Hargrove said. “We thought if he came through these last two days healthy he would have had enough outings to get himself ready (for opening day). It was especially important today, not just that he was healthy, but that he threw back-to-back.”
Health report: Two Mariners who stayed behind in Peoria, Ariz., continue to come back impressively from injuries.
Outfielder Chris Snelling, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in late February, got three at-bats at DH in a minor-league Friday and will play in the field today.
Pitcher Rafael Soriano, who had major elbow surgery last summer, has progressively moved to the top of the mound in his last four bullpen sessions. He threw 35 pitches, all fastballs, Friday.
The boys of Vegas: Yes, the Mariners’ entourage is leaving money behind in Las Vegas, although Rick Rizzs of the broadcast team has a positive way at viewing his losses.
“The way I see it, I’m $150 ahead,” Rizzs said. “I came here with $300 (to gamble) and I’ve still got $150 left.”
Catcher Dan Wilson said he had dinner with his wife Thursday night after the team arrived, then played some blackjack.
“I’m down a couple hundred,” he said. “I’m not very good at it.”