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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 26, 2012 at 10:17 PM

Quick thoughts on Mariners’ provisional Opening Day roster

The Mariners announced their provisional 25-man Opening Day roster tonight (also known as “tomorrow” in Japan). This is subject to last-minute change, because official rosters aren’t due to MLB until 1 p.m. Wednesday. There can still be revisions, in other words, but I don’t think the Mariners would have released these names if they didn’t plan to go this way, barring a last-minute injury of some sort.

Odd men out are outfielder Carlos Peguero and reliever Chance Ruffin, who were optioned to Tacoma (with Ruffin likely to close for the Rainiers). Catcher Guillermo Quiroz was re-assigned to minor-league camp, a totally expected move, to reduce the roster to the necessary 28 required by MLB.

The upshot is that Casper Wells was selected over Peguero as the reserve outfielder, despite his spring troubles at the plate. And Alex Liddi was selected over Peguero to hold down one of the spots on the Opening Day roster opened up by having three pitchers on the ineligible list, a unique provision for these two games in Japan. Those three ineligible pitchers will be Kevin Millwood (who didn’t even travel to Japan), Hector Noesi (who, like Millwood, is in the Mariner rotation) and Hisashi Iwakuma (whose lackluster spring continued when he was was hit hard in the M’s final exhibition game, giving up six runs in four innings to Yomiuri). Iwakuma had already been moved from starting to the bullpen, and I read this decision to inactivate him — in front of a Japanese audience, no less — is an indication that the Mariners don’t have faith in Iwakuma right now to get hitters out.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Iwakuma when the Mariners have to re-set their roster for the resumption of the season in Oakland, April 6. Noesi and Millwood will be placed on the 25-man roster, but I wonder if they’ll do so right away with Iwakuma. The Mariners have been saying that Iwakuma needs to regain his arm strength following his shoulder injury last year; pure speculation, but I wonder if that would open door for a DL berth early in the season while he does so.

As expected, infielder Munenori Kawasaski was selected from Tacoma as a precursor to being on the Opening Day roster. Millwood was selected from Tacoma, too, as required by rule, even though he won’t be active in Japan. And so, somewhat suprisingly, was rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who will be in the Seattle bullpen to start the season. Ramirez had a great spring, no question about it, but I thought the Mariners might want to keep him working as a starter in Tacoma, in case one of rotation members falters, rather than shifting him to the pen. But he pitched so well that manager Eric Wedge obviously wanted him on his staff, perhaps in the long relief role that had been earmarked for Iwakuma.

The other revelation is that Rule 5 left-hander Lucas Luetge has made the team, at least to start the season. The Mariners elected to go with an eight-man bullpen for the two games in Japan — nine, if you count Blake Beavan, not scheduled to start either game. But, as mentioned, they’ll have to drop two players when Noesi and Millwood are added back to the 25-man roster — three, if and when Iwakuma is added as well. Liddi figures to be one; I’d say Charlie Furbush or Luetge are candidates to create another opening. Furbush has options remaining, while Luetge would have to be offered back to Milwaukee before they can send him to the minors. So the Mariners still have some things to sort out when they begin the grind of the season on April 6, after a week to recuperate from the rigors of the Japan trip. But a little more clarity was provided tonight.

Here, barring a change on Wednesday, is the 25-man roster that will be active on Opening Day:

Pitchers (11)

49 BEAVAN, Blake RHP

35 DELABAR, Steve RHP

34 HERNANDEZ, Felix RHP

23 KELLEY, Shawn RHP

43 LEAGUE, Brandon RHP

50 RAMIREZ, Erasmo RHP

54 WILHELMSEN, Tom RHP

41 FURBUSH, Charlie LHP

44 LUETGE, Lucas LHP

52 SHERRILL, George LHP

38 VARGAS, Jason LHP

Catchers (3)

27 JASO, John C

63 MONTERO, Jesus C

30 OLIVO, Miguel C

Infielders (7)

13 ACKLEY, Dustin INF

9 FIGGINS, Chone INF

61 KAWASAKI, Munenori INF

16 LIDDI, Alex INF

26 RYAN, Brendan INF

15 SEAGER, Kyle INF

17 SMOAK, Justin INF

Outfielders (4)

20 CARP, Mike OF

55 SAUNDERS, Michael OF

51 SUZUKI, Ichiro OF

33 WELLS, Casper OF

*RHP Kevin Millwood, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP Hector Noesi are ineligible for games in Japan.

Where will the Mariners finish in the AL West?

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