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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 21, 2012 at 9:24 AM

Rotation settled, but roster decisions still remain for Mariners

The Mariners’ roster came into sharper focus today, but there are still some decisions that could go down to the wire.

One day after Hong-Chih Kuo was released by the Mariners, today they released another reliever, Shawn Camp. Those two had been signed to major-league contracts on back-to-back days, Feb. 3 for Camp and Feb. 4 for Kuo, but Jack Zduriencik’s attempt to add veteran bullpen depth obviously didn’t work out as hoped for.

Later in the morning, manager Eric Wedge announced his starting rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, and Kevin Millwood, with Hisashi Iwakuma moving to the bullpen as the long man. That’s an ominous sign for Charlie Furbush.

The Mariners still could go in numerous different directions as they endeavor to cut down the roster to 25 for their opener a week from today. As I’ve written before, their roster for the two games in Japan might be different than their roster for the bulk of the season, because they have no need for a fifth starter at the outset. But let’s discuss the choices remaining.

Here is their current camp roster of 38, which has to be lopped by 13:

Pitchers (14+2)

49 BEAVAN, Blake RHP

35 DELABAR, Steve RHP

34 HERNANDEZ, Felix RHP

18 IWAKUMA, Hisashi RHP

23 KELLEY, Shawn RHP

43 LEAGUE, Brandon RHP

25 MILLWOOD, Kevin* RHP

45 NOESI, Hector RHP

50 RAMIREZ, Erasmo* RHP

59 RUFFIN, Chance RHP

54 WILHELMSEN, Tom RHP

41 FURBUSH, Charlie LHP

37 JIMENEZ, Cesar LHP

44 LUETGE, Lucas LHP

52 SHERRILL, George LHP

38 VARGAS, Jason LHP

Catchers (4+2)

27 JASO, John C

63 MONTERO, Jesus C

10 MOORE, Adam C

30 OLIVO, Miguel C

3 QUIROZ, Guillermo* C

2 SUCRE, Jesus* C

Infielders (6+3)

13 ACKLEY, Dustin INF

72 CATRICALA, Vinnie* INF

9 FIGGINS, Chone INF

61 KAWASAKI, Munenori* INF

16 LIDDI, Alex INF

1 RODRIGUEZ, Luis* INF

26 RYAN, Brendan INF

15 SEAGER, Kyle INF

17 SMOAK, Justin INF

Outfielders (6+1)

20 CARP, Mike OF

21 GUTIERREZ, Franklin OF

4 PEGUERO, Carlos OF

55 SAUNDERS, Michael OF

51 SUZUKI, Ichiro OF

33 WELLS, Casper OF

94 WILSON, Mike* OF

(The numbers after each position refer first to those on the 40-man roster, followed by the number of non-roster player, who are designated by an asterisk. The release of Kuo and Camp reduces the Mariners’ 40-man roster to 38, so there is room to add two players without any corresponding moves. Those two will almost certainly be pitcher Kevin Millwood and infielder Munenori Kawasaki.)

First off, we’ll put Adam Moore and Franklin Gutierrez on the disabled list. Then we’ll lop off reserve catchers Guillermo Quiroz and Jesus Sucre. Sorry, guys. Next to go will be Mike Wilson, who is a survivor but isn’t going to survive this final cut.

Now we’re down to 33. The final eight cuts aren’t going to be nearly so easy. You can actually make a case for every single player who remains in camp to be on the team.

Let’s go position by position.

Starting rotation: Hernandez, Vargas, Noesi, Beavan, and Millwood. It’s a done deal now. With Iwakuma going to the bullpen, it doesn’t look promising for Erasmo Ramirez, who has made a strong impression this spring. He could work out of their bullpen but will much more likely go down to the minors as a starting pitcher at the outset of the season.

Bullpen: Brandon League will close, and I see Tom Wilhelmsen, George Sherrill ,Shawn Kelley and Iwakuma being locks, That leaves two spots, most likely, and numerous candidates: RH Steve Delabar, RH Chance Ruffin, LH Cesar Jimenez (who is out of options), LH Lucas Luetge (a Rule 5 player who must be kept on the roster or offered back to Milwaukee), and LH Charlie Furbush — in addition to Ramirez, who as mentioned is a longshot. Almost impossible to hazard a guess how this is going to wind up, but I’ll do it anyway: My final two spots go to Delabar and Luetge. (UPDATE: Dave Cameron tweeted yesterday that Jimenez has been placed on waivers, but the Mariners have not announced this yet.).

Catchers: I don’t see any way they don’t keep three: Miguel Olivo, John Jaso and Jesus Montero. Jaso hasn’t done much at the plate this spring (he’s 1-for-14), but if Montero is going to be the primary DH, you need someone else to serve as the backup catcher. Right?

Infield: The locks are Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, and,undoubtedly, Kawasaki (hitting .367 with nine RBIs). There’s room for one more reserve, and it sure looks like it will be Kyle Seager (.350 with six extra base hits). Alex Liddi (.394 average, .667 slugging) and Vinnie Catricala (.516 slugging) have made strong cases, but they look to be odd men out (at least after Japan). With Millwood not even making the trip to Japan (according to Wedge), one of those two will likely sneak onto the Opening Day roster — and if the Mariners decide to hold another starter off their initial roster in Japan, then both could make it.

Outfield: Ichiro, Mike Carp and Michael Saunders are going to make the team. The big question here is whether Casper Wells has done enough to be on the squad as a backup outfielder. He’s a better defensive option than Carlos Peguero, but Peguero has knocked four homers this spring, while Wells is hitting .167 without an extra base hit.

Stay tuned.

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