BY John Hickey 11:06AM 03/21/2011

Pineda moved, throws well over 5.0 IP

Rookie given best chance to get his innings in on day when rain threatens; Pauley gets later start.

Michael Pineda had Monday's start moved from p.m. to a.m. because of rain threat / File photo courtesy Tacoma Rainiers

Need more proof that the Mariners want to have Michael Pineda as Seattle’s fifth starter to begin the season and not David Pauley?

All you have to know is that with the heavy threat of rain zeroing in on the Phoenix area Monday morning, Pineda had his scheduled start against Cincinnati moved up.

With the weather threatening to wash out afternoon action, Pineda was inserted into a 10 a.m. minor league game at Seattle’s Peoria, AZ, complex.

It didn’t turn out badly, either. Throwing in a Triple-A game against Kansas City, the 6-foot-7 right-hander wound up throwing five innings, throwing 72 pitches and allowing just one run. And, hey, the weather apparently was close to Seattle-type April conditions, so he could be ready for a stint in Safeco Field.

Pauley, meanwhile was given the Monday afternoon start against the Cincinnati Reds on the road in Goodyear. Well, that was the plan, anyway. The game wound up being rained out and Pauley wound up throwing in a covered bullpen back at the Seattle complex.

That move, plus using two Monday morning minor league games against the Royals to best advantage, meant that Seattle was able to get all its pitchers their regular amount of work Monday despite losing the regularly scheduled Cactus League game to rain.

It should be noted that lefty Luke French is still in the running for the fifth spot, but the Monday morning translation is that the Mariners view it as more important that Pineda get his innings in than that Pauley do the same. Also, the team is concerned that a slick field might impede Pineda, but less so that the same imposition might slow Pauley.

The two men are arguably going after the same job of fifth starter, but the reality is that the decision is weighted heavily in Pineda’s favor.

The news isn’t all bad for Pauley, who pitched both as a starter and reliever with Seattle in 2010. He has a 1.29 ERA this spring, he’s on the 40-man roster and he’s out of options, which means he’s almost certainly going to be in the Seattle bullpen once the Mariners make it official that Pineda will be in the rotation.

Meanwhile, in a Double-A game against the Royals, lefty Aaron Laffey and rookie right-hander Josh Lueke both got a chance to throw Monday morning.

Laffey threw three innings, allowing one unearned run while throwing 41 pitches, 30 of them strikes. He struck out the side in the first inning and wound up allowing only one base runner — a single, a steal, and error and a grounder led to the only run.

Lueke gave up two two-out singles hits in throwing a 21-pitch inning, but didn’t allow any runs.

Twitter: @JHickey3


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