The rotation (for now) is set: Hernandez, Snell, Rowland-Smith, Fister, Vargas
Manager Don Wakamatsu has his five starting pitchers in order, although he’s done it in pencil and chiseled it in Jello.
Saying there are other “dynamics” that could alter things — namely Cliff Lee’s health — here is how the Mariners will assemble the rotation to start the season:
Right-hander Felix Hernandez on April 5 at Oakland.
Right-hander Ian Snell on April 6 at Oakland
Left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith on April 7 at Oakland
Right-hander Doug Fister on April 8 at Oakland
Left-hander Jason Vargas on April 9 at Texas
“There are some dynamics that I really can’t talk about,” Wakamatsu said.
Take a guess as to what that means, although Wakamatsu later said the uncertainty revolves mostly around Lee and how long he’ll be out with his strained lower right abdomen muscle.
Here’s one scenario, purely speculative on my part: Lee is scheduled to play catch this morning and, despite recent reports that he has improved, whether he feels pain in this session may determine the Mariners’ course of action. If Lee throws with no pain, I can see the Mariners having him continue his throwing program and making do with a starting rotation as listed above. But, if Lee feels more pain and it seems like he’ll need a longer recovery, I can see the Mariners looking at options outside the organization.
Again, pure speculation on my part, but you can be sure GM Jack Zduriencik has explored pitchers he could acquire. As Zduriencik has said many times, he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t look at the possibilities.
Other notes this morning:
The Mariners have optioned left-handed pitcher Luke French to Class AAA Tacoma, sending him down to continue his work as a starter. Wakamatsu said there would be two more cuts from the major league camp today.
Felix Hernandez will pitch in a minor league intrasquad game this morning, his final spring training outing before opening day. The Mariners don’t want him facing Texas in the Cactus League game this afternoon at Surprise because he’s scheduled to pitch at Texas on April 10. Left-hander Garrett Olson also will pitch in the minor league intrasquad. Right-hander David Pauley will start against the Raingers today.
The Mariners still don’t know when Lee’s hearing will take place with Major League Baseball concerning his five-game suspension. There was supposed to be a conference call on Monday, but it was postponed because all the necessary people couldn’t take part.
As Wakamatsu has said before, catchers Rob Johnson and Adam Moore will get fairly equal playing time early in the season. Johnson is doing well with his surgically repaired hips, even though he didn’t catch all nine innings of Monday’s game against the A’s as originally planned. Wakamatsu said the flow of the game dictated the decision to pull Johnson after six innings because he had caught a lot of pitches and run the bases a few times. There was no need to push him any further.
Erik Bedard plans to throw from a mound again today as he continues his impressive comeback from shoulder surgery last August. “We’re ahead of schedule,” Wakamatsu said. The Mariners won’t say when they expect to have Bedard pitching again, although Wakamatsu said there’s no plan now to put him on the 60-day disabled list.