Jon Garland takes the mound for the Mariners tonight against the Chicago Cubs and it’s safe to say anybody with even remote input into the team’s pitching decisions will be tuned in closely. That includes GM Jack Zduriencik and members of his front office team.
Garland has an opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Mariners that allows him to become a free agent as early as tomorrow if he so chooses. With other teams said to be interested in Garland, he could force the issue with the Mariners after a strong showing in tonight’s contest.
The stakes are simple.
The team will break camp with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders in the rotation for now. That leaves two empty spots and five pitchers — Garland, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer and Jeremy Bonderman – looking to fill them. Six days ago, Garland appeared to be in the driver’s seat for one of the two open spots. But then, he got hammered by Wladimir Balentien and The Netherlands and Mariners officials now privately say they need to see something against the Cubs if they’re to be persuaded Garland’s the guy.
Spring training results don’t often carry much weight. But Garland hasn’t pitched since 2011, is still feeling his way back, and the team needs a better gauge of where he’s at before committing a valuable rotation spot and having to send a young pitcher down who — on the results-based surface of it all — might be performing better in camp.
“We’d like to see something from him, yeah,” one source said. “I’d be lying if I said we weren’t anxious to see more. He had that game where he didn’t do so well last time, so we want to make sure it doesn’t happen a second time. If he goes out and he’s OK, then you take it from there.”
What that entails is still up to the team and whether it believes Garland would truly become a free agent.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik confirmed to the Times yesterday that Friday is the date when Garland’s opt-out can take effect. Such clauses are not uncommon with veterans and in this case, Friday gives Garland a full week to seek employment elsewhere before teams typically pack up their camps in Arizona and Florida and head north to start their seasons.More
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