Left-hander Danny Hultzen, as it turns out, isn’t going anywhere.
The Mariners retained Hultzen, an oft-injured former first-round pick, when he cleared waivers Wednesday after being designated for assignment last Friday to clear space for other players on the 40-man roster.
Hultzen, who turns 26 on Saturday, was sent to Triple-A Tacoma on an outright assignment. He missed most of the past three seasons while undergoing and recovering from shoulder surgery.
It isn’t particularly surprising that Hultzen cleared waivers. He was out of options, which meant he must make a club’s 25-man roster next season or again be moved off the roster through a trade, release or waivers.
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Those restrictions virtually ruled out a waiver claim because Hultzen logged only eight innings over the past two seasons, hasn’t pitched since May 17 and isn’t currently throwing.
“He felt good at the end of the year,” assistant general manager Jeff Kingston said recently. “He wants to continue to rest and rehab and strengthen the shoulder before picking up a ball in the new year.
“Obviously, that’s an unknown at this point as to how he’s going to feel when he does pick up a ball. He feels he’ll be good to go in spring training. We’ll just have to wait and see on that.”
Moving Hultzen off the roster makes him available for selection next month in the Rule 5 Draft, but any club that selects him would be required to keep him on their 25-man roster for the entire year.
That, too, seems unlikely.
The Mariners chose Hultzen with the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he appeared on a fast track to the majors by going 14-8 with a 2.82 ERA in his first 32 pro starts.
Hultzen opened 2013, his second full pro season, at Tacoma but a sore shoulder surfaced in late April. He made just three more starts before undergoing major shoulder surgery on Oct. 1, 2013.
After missing all of 2014, Hultzen flashed encouraging signs this past spring and returned to active duty in May at Double-A Jackson. But he made just three starts before shoulder fatigue ended his season.
“It’s just really hard to predict where Danny is going to be come spring training and the regular season,” Kingston said. “Is he going to be healthy? What role is he going to be in? Is he going to be able to log innings?”
INTEREST IN OZUNA
Miami Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna emerged late Tuesday night as the latest trade target for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto in an ongoing roster overhaul.
Sources confirm the Mariners show interest in obtaining Ozuna, 25, from the Marlins, who are shopping him in hopes of acquiring a salary-controllable starting pitcher.
Discussions appear to be in the preliminary stages, but the Mariners are believed to be offering either left-hander Roenis Elias or recently-obtained righty Nathan Karns.
Nether Elias nor Karns — or Ozuna, for that matter — are yet eligible for salary arbitration.
Ozuna is coming off a disappointing season in which he hit just 10 homers after clubbing 23 in 2014. He had more moderate declines in batting average (.269 to .259) and on-base percentage (.317 to .308).
While Ozuna played primarily center field for Miami, he would likely shift to right field for the Mariners in order to allow Martin to play center. Such a move would free Nelson Cruz to become a full-time designated hitter.
Elias, 27, was 5-8 last season with a 4.14 ERA in 22 games, including 20 starts. The Mariners obtained Karns, 28, from Tampa Bay as part of a six-player trade on Nov. 5. He was 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA last season as a rookie.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners