Release of veteran opens a roster spot, but the Mariners still need to clear more roster space prior to opening in Oakland Friday.
The squeeze on the Seattle roster was in full evidence Monday morning as the Mariners made more moves to get close to the 25 who will start the season.
Infielder Josh Wilson, who was signed in the off-season to a $750,000 contract as a result of the 108 games he played in a supporting role for the Mariners last year, was released by the club.
Seattle wants to go with Adam Kennedy and Luis Rodriguez as their utility infielders, and that ultimately left Wilson, one of the most popular players in the clubhouse, without a job.
That move was piggybacked with the Mariners putting Kennedy and relievers Jamey Wright and Chris Ray on the 25-man roster while pitcher Luke French was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma and two non-roster catchers, Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez, were reassigned to the clubs minor league camp.
Seattle now has 27 players in camp who are on the 25-man roster (reliever Shawn Kelley is on the 60-day DL, so technically that brings the number down to 26), and there are still three non-roster players on hand Rodriguez, left-handed pitcher Nate Robertson and outfielder Ryan Langerhans.
The Mariners have to make room for two of the three Langerhans to be the fourth outfielder and Kennedy and Rodriguez as the backup infielders because Robertson just underwent surgery to have bone chips removed from his elbow and will start the season on the disabled list. However, Rodriguez hasnt shown that much this spring (a .182 average in 44 at-bats), and it would be no surprise if the Mariners picked up another infielder as other teams make their roster cuts.
As is the case every year at this time, the Seattle camp still has players on the bubble. Michael Saunders will make the team as the starting center fielder if, as expected, Franklin Gutierrezs stomach troubles force Gutierrez to start the season on the disabled list.
Pitchers Josh Lueke, Tom Wilhelmsen, Cesar Jimenez and David Pauley are still in the mix. Brandon League, Ray, Wright and Aaron Laffey seem to be locks for the bullpen. Lueke is close, and Wilhelmsen, Jimenez and Pauley could be fighting for the final two slots.
Wilhelmsen has shown a monster fastball but has never pitched above Class-A ball. Jimenez hasnt pitched well all spring (9.82 ERA) but is out of options and could make the roster for that reason. Pauley was able to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen last year and has had a decent spring (2.00 ERA).
NOTES: With Saunders in center field for Mondays game in Peoria against Colorado, that makes nine consecutive games that Gutierrez has missed with his stomach pains. The Mariners are still awaiting word from a second round of tests to see if they can finally get to the bottom of the problem. One move the Mariners likely will make to open space on the roster would be having pitcher Maurico Robles join Kelley in starting the season on the 60-day disabled list. Robles had elbow surgery earlier this month and wont be ready to pitch within that time frame.