After Saturday, it could be three weeks before the Mariners can field their primary lineup in a Cactus League game.
Shortstop Jean Segura, second baseman Robinson Cano and designated hitter Nelson Cruz — the club’s No. 2-3-4 hitters — started Friday against Texas in Surprise and are expected to do so again Saturday against Colorado in Scottsdale.
After that, who knows?
All three are departing after Saturday’s game to join the Dominican Republic for the World Baseball Classic. The Dominicans are the defending champions and an early favorite to repeat.
The title game is March 22 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
The biggest impact of the WBC departures will be in the middle infield.
"We’re going to be light," manager Scott Servais said. "You’re going to get a chance to see a lot of young players play. With the Michael Freeman situation in limbo, us trading (minor-league shortstop) Drew Jackson, Segura and Cano (leaving), it gets thin."
Freeman was designated for assignment Wednesday in order to clear space on the Mariners’ 40-man roster after a trade returned right-hander Chase De Jong from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jackson was one of two minor-league players the Mariners traded away.
Freeman could rejoin the Mariners as early as next week if he clears waivers.
Until then — or if another club claims Freeman?
"You’re going to see a lot of (Taylor) Motter, (Shawn) O’Malley and Tyler Smith," Servais said. "Those guys are going to play almost every day. It’ll be a challenge. Hopefully, we can keep those guys healthy."
The Mariners will also bolster their game-day roster by summoning players from minor-league camp. Middle infielders Bryson Brigman, Zach Shank and Donnie Walton accompanied the club Friday to Surprise to play the Rangers.
Right-hander Andrew Moore, the organization’s 2016 minor-league pitcher of the year, will start Sunday in a split-squad game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
Felix Hernandez is slotted to pitch the split-squad game Sunday against Oakland at Peoria Stadium. That game will be the first of 16 spring telecasts by Root Sports Northwest.
Plans call for De Jong to make his Mariners’ debut Sunday by pitching two innings against the Athletics. Lefty Ariel Miranda is also shifting to a relief role in his next outing after making two starts.
The Mariners posted their tentative pitching plans through March 8, all of which are subject to change.
Saturday vs Colorado (Scottsdale): Yovani Gallardo (three innings), James Paxton (two), Zac Curtis, Chris Heston (2-3), Paul Fry and Jean Machi.
Sunday split-squad vs. Oakland (Peoria): Hernandez (3), Evan Scribner, Thyago Vieira, James Pazos, De Jong (2) and Casey Fein.
Sunday split-squad vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Glendale): Moore (2), Edwin Diaz, Pat Venditte, Dean Kiekhefer, Jonathan Aro, Dylan Unsworth (2) and Micah Owings.
Monday vs. Texas (Peoria): Drew Smyly (2-3), Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski, Dan Altavilla, Nick Hagadone and Shae Simmons.
Tuesday: Open date.
Wednesday vs. Cleveland (Peoria): Hisashi Iwakuma (2-3) and Miranda.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners