Mariners' last roster move comes down to Bay, Wells

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comMarch 29, 2013 

MESA, Ariz. — There was hope of some finality for the Seattle Mariners on their last day in Arizona. Instead, Casper Wells and Jason Bay will have to remain in baseball-roster limbo a while longer.

Initially, Mariners manager Eric Wedge had hoped to announce Thursday morning who had won the competition between Bay and Wells for the last roster spot.

However, those plans were scuttled.

General manager Jack Zduriencik decided that because the Mariners’ official 25-man roster doesn’t have to be finalized until noon (PDT) on Sunday, the team would wait until then.

“I know you are anxiously awaiting a decision,” Zduriencik said. “But at this moment in time, we don’t have any information except to say that we don’t have to have the rosters set till Sunday, so what we are going to do is let (this) play out.”

Judging by the way the Mariners are handling playing time for the weekend, it seems as if they already have made up their mind to keep Bay, and eventually designate Wells for assignment.

Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge met with Wells and Bay separately and told them that any decision would not come for a few days.

“Not all the decisions have been made and we told them that,” Wedge said “I wish I could tell you more. I wish I could tell them more. Quite frankly we have to let this play out and do what’s best for the ballclub.”

Wells remained in Peoria, Ariz., on Thursday and played in a minor league game. He will continue to do that today and Saturday.

“We want him to get his at-bats,” Zduriencik said. “For the last few days he hasn’t played quite all that much. Our decision was to keep him here, let him play, and he can certainly get three games in, 4-5 at-bats per game, so it worked good for him.”

Bay traveled to Mesa with the team and played five innings, going 1-for-2 with a single to left.

So why not make the move now?

Think of Wells as a three-day insurance policy for freak injuries; say, if something were to happen to Franklin Gutierrez. If the ever-fragile Gutierrez were to suffer a complication with the sore legs he has battled this spring, then the Mariners would still have Wells to fill in.

“Quite frankly, what we’re trying to do is just give ourselves a little more time,” Wedge said. “When you talk about spring training and, particularly, the end of spring training, you want to protect yourself against so many different things and one of them is injury, quite frankly. So, if you don’t have to make a decision early, you try not to do it.”

Yes, it’s only one game. But with Gutierrez, a precedent has been established. There’s a reason he wasn’t in the lineup against the Cubs on Thursday after playing two straight days. Wedge likes to refer it to as “slow playing.”

Wedge wouldn’t get into specifics of Gutierrez’s leg tightness in terms of whether it’s his hamstrings, quadriceps or calves.

“It just depends,” Wedge said. “I’m not going to get into specifics. He’s not the only one who has tightness. It’s just a story with him. With his history, it becomes a little bit more of a thing.”

Gutierrez’s fragility is one of the reasons the team signed Endy Chavez to a minor league contract and will stash him at Triple-A Tacoma. If the team goes with Bay as expected and loses Wells, Chavez will be in Tacoma ready if Gutierrez gets hurt.

“I’m going to continue to make sure we take care of him, especially early on in the season,” Wedge said of Gutierrez. “It’s fair to say, he’s going to get days off. We’re a better ballclub when he’s in there. But if he’s not an option for us, it doesn’t do us any good.”

It’s difficult to imagine that the Mariners would be able to keep Wells if they designate him for assignment. It’s likely a team would claim him off waivers. The waivers process lasts three days. If Wells clears waivers, the team could keep him and outright him to Tacoma. By waiting until the very end of spring training, it increases the Mariners’ chances Wells might sneak through waivers because most teams are also finalizing their rosters.

Wells could also be traded in the next few days. Zduriencik would prefer to get something for Wells instead of losing him with nothing in return. A few teams could use him as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

IWAKUMA’S FINGER SORE

Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma left the game a little earlier than expected Thursday. The right-hander was bothered by some irritation on the side of his middle finger near the fingernail.

“I had some dry skin that peeled off,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “It happens every year in spring training, nothing that I’m worried about.”

There was fair-sized callous on the finger that is common for many pitchers because of the friction caused by a baseball’s seams.

“Noting of concern,” Wedge said. “We were going to pull him back anyway. It all worked out well. No reason to push it.”

Iwakuma pitched four innings, giving up three runs on five hits – including a two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano – with four strikeouts and no walks.

“I felt good generally,” Iwakuma said. “My pitches were a little high today. I’m ready for the season to start.”

SPRING TRAINING RECAP

MARINERS 6, Cubs 4 (AT HoHoKam Stadium, Mesa, Ariz.)

The facts: The Cubs played their final game in HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa. It was fitting that the Mariners were the final opponent because they were the Cubs’ first opponent at HoHoKam on Feb. 28, 1997. A crowd of 11,365 filled the place. Since that first game in 1997, the stadium has had 2,610,736 fans attend games. Unlike that first meeting, the Mariners prevailed in this one.

Play of the game: Michael Morse set a Mariners record by hitting his ninth home run of the spring, eclipsing the mark set by Mike Wilson in 2009. Morse stayed on a fastball from Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva and ripped a line drive over the right-field wall and into the visitors’ bullpen. Morse’s nine spring homers are the most in baseball. The Mariners have 56 home runs this spring in 32 games, the most since the Rays hit 56 in 2009.

Who was hot: Minor leaguer Nate Tenbrink continued to make the most of his playing time. After coming up with a three-run double on Wednesday, Tenbrink had a big hit again on Thursday. With the Mariners down 4-3 in the top of the eighth inning, Tenbrink singled to right against left-hander Hisanori Takahashi to tie the game. Kelly Shoppach followed with a double down the line to give the Mariners the lead for good. “Everybody down there (minor league) is high on him, that’s why we gave him the opportunity to come up here, and he’s shown himself well,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s a good player.”

Who was not: Michael Saunders had rough day at the plate, going 0-for-5 with a strikeout, dropping his spring average to .210. But he did have a solid day in center field, making a pair of nice running catches.

Quotable: “Everybody looks at him like he’s this big, strong guy, and he is, but he’s a hitter first. If you watch his discipline and focus he has in batting practice, it’s obvious. Because of that, he’s able to take it into the game.” – Wedge on Morse.

On tap: The Mariners have today off while they travel to Salt Lake City. They will wrap up spring training with a 12:05 p.m. game Saturday at Spring Mobile Stadium against the Colorado Rockies. Brandon Maurer will start for Seattle. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

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