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March 22, 2013 at 5:00 AM

First Mariners non-roster pitcher to win a spot is…Kameron Loe

Mariners non-roster invite Kameron Loe participates in a pitcher fielding drill in Peoria, AZ.

Mariners non-roster invite Kameron Loe participates in a pitcher fielding drill in Peoria, AZ.

Well, there we were all pre-occupied with Jon Garland and his bid for the rotation last night when a non-roster guy actually won a spot on the team and it shot right by us. Kameron Loe hasn’t been officially declared a Mariners member yet but he actually won his bullpen spot last night when the Mariners sent Carson Smith down to minor league camp at around 11 p.m. PT.

Now, it’s been pretty clear for a while now that the Mariners were going to give Loe every opportunity to join their bullpen this year. Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps have both had good camps throwing from the right side, but let’s face it, they’ve barely gotten their toes wet — let alone their feet — in the majors. And after Tom Wilhelmsen, that’s a pretty vulnerable right side carrying all that inexperience. So, once Josh Kinney went down to a bizarre injury it pretty much took away all of Loe’s competition, save for Smith, who had a fantastic spring but, as his manager strongly hinted a few days back, was only going to be looked at as future depth for now.

Once it was confirmed last weekend that the Mariners were not going to carry a “long-man” in the bullpen, the job came down to Loe or Smith. Now that Smith is gone, the job is Loe’s barring a trade. But there really is no reason to make a trade. Loe has shown the Mariners what they needed to see this spring. His change-up has been stronger than it’s been for him in the past.

Loe has an opt-out clause in his contract that kicks in Monday. But it’s not going to be an issue.

That’s because, given what Loe has shown, he’s a pretty cheap veteran pickup by the Mariners now that he appears to be over the late-season problems that plagued him last year.

Actually, let me re-phrase. The opt-out clause will be an issue in that the Mariners will have to guarantee Loe something come Monday and that will nullify any chance for a trade or waiver-wire pickup to replace him after that. The Mariners aren’t in the business of throwing money away. No siree. Once they show Loe the money on Monday, they aren’t kicking him to the curb in favor of a late trade recipient. Not how this team operates. It counts the small change. And the Mariners aren’t going to find that trade replacement in thenext 72 hours or so. That’s too quick.

Loe told me today he’s gotten more strikeouts with his changeup this spring than he has his last several years combined. That’s good news, because right-handers can use a good changeup to neutralize lefties. Loe had problems with those last year, so he might have found a solution.

In any event, the Mariners appear to have found their solution to concerns about a woeful lack of experience on the right side of the pen. We already know it’s going to be a seven-man bullpen and that Brandon Maurer is not being considered for a relief role. Erasmo Ramirez isn’t either because, for one, you don’t want to mess him up as a starter right now and, two, in a choice between who I’d want coming in late, it’s Loe without question if I’m a big league manager. Nothing Ramirez has done on his brief MLB resume so far suggests he’s a better late-innings reliever than Loe. Ramirez needs to work on his starting — period. The handful of folks who have really paid close attention to the bullpen can see the obvious.

So, your Mariners bullpen for Opening Day of 2013 is:

RHP Tom Wilhelmsen CL

LHP Oliver Perez

RHP Kameron Loe

RHP Carter Capps

RHP Stephen Pryor

LHP Charlie Furbush

LHP Lucas Luetge

Got any better ideas? Mariano Rivera isn’t available.

Congrats to Loe. Too bad the boa constrictor can’t be here for all the fun. Don’t expect the Mariners to announce anything for a while, but that’s OK. The whole world usually knows it by the time they announce things. Unless they do something completely whacked. That’s happened before, too, at spring training. But it’s not going to happen here. The minute Shawn Kelley was traded and we learned that Loe was approached at exactly that time, it was pretty clear he was on the team unless he fell apart this spring. And he did not.

Comments | More in roster | Topics: kameron loe; carson smith; josh kinney; bullpen

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