PEORIA, ARIZ. — The waffling ended Friday from Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon regarding the shortstop battle between incumbent Brad Miller and displaced second baseman Nick Franklin.
“They both played extremely well,” McClendon said, “but Brad separated himself. I’d be a fool if I tell you he didn’t. I think we all saw that. He deserves the opportunity, and he’s getting it.”
The Mariners optioned Franklin to Triple-A Tacoma as part of a series of personnel moves that virtually finalized the 25-man roster for the March 31 opener against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
McClendon said Franklin will play shortstop “predominantly” for the Rainiers, who open their schedule April 3 against Albuquerque (Dodgers) at Cheney Stadium.
“He’s got to play,” McClendon said. “The numbers are what they are. It is what it is. You can argue it any way you want to. But he needs to go play. Were the decisions tough? Yeah, they’re tough. But that’s the way it is.”
The Mariners also optioned three pitchers to Tacoma: right-handers Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer, and lefty reliever Lucas Luetge.
Six players were reassigned to minor-league camp: pitchers Dominic Leone, Zach Miner, Ramon Ramirez and Carson Smith; catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Endy Chavez.
The Mariners also designated infielder Carlos Triunfel and outfielder Xavier Avery for assignment to clear space on their 40-man roster for two lefty pitchers: rookie starter Roenis Elias and veteran reliever Joe Beimel.
The moves left 28 players on the camp roster, but three pitchers are expected to open the season on the disabled list as they continue their recovery from injuries: Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor.
The Mariners are required to be down to 25 players by noon Sunday.
McClendon also confirmed the final three spots in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez will be James Paxton, Elias and new-arrival Chris Young.
That puts two lefties, Paxton and Elias, in a back-to-back situation, but McClendon dismissed concerns because they will face different opponents on their first cycle through the rotation.
“We’ll worry about that second cycle later,” McClendon said. “Let’s get through this first cycle.”
Young’s $1.25 million contract includes the 45-day advance consent clause that veteran lefty Randy Wolf found so objectionable earlier in the week. Wolf’s refusal to sign the clause led to his release.
“It really was a non-issue for me,” Young said. “I always tell myself it’s a performance-based game, and the club has the right to release you at any point.
“It’s just a matter of whether your salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season. I don’t play for the money. I play because I love the game…I’m just looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.”
The clause allows the Mariners to release Young at any point in the first 45 days of season for any reason other than injury and limit their financial obligated to a pro-rated portion of his salary.
Young signed a one-year deal Thursday, two days after he was released by Washington. He is slotted for five innings Saturday in the Mariners’ spring finale against Colorado at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
NOESI WINS JOB
Right-hander Hector Noesi won what might have been the final spot on the roster by beating out Zach Miner as the bullpen’s long reliever. Noesi gave up four runs and nine hits in 13 innings over six appearances.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” McClendon said. “I don’t think anyone will argue that fact. I thought he made drastic improvements over last year. The staff was very impressed. He deserved that opportunity.”
Noesi was also out of options. He would have needed to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.