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Notebook: Utility IFs get needed break, plus marquee Mariners matchups on tap in WBC

Taylor Motter is among the Mariners utility infielders who have received extra work since the WBC started. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – Somehow the Mariners will find a way to bounce back from their 24-3 defeat at the hands of the mighty Brewers of Milwaukee on Monday in Maryvale.

As each day goes by, the absences of star players in the World Baseball Classic becomes more and more evident. The non-veteran infielders in particular have taken a bit of a hit, having to play much more than usual at this point of the spring. Mix in mid-90s temperatures all this week and manager Scott Servais wisely is giving those who are battling for the final utility spot a break today. Don’t be surprised if we see a number of minor leaguers in the starting lineups this week.

Lineup vs. White Sox

Leonys Martin, CF
Mitch Haniger, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Danny Valencia, 1B
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Mike Zunino, C
Guillermo Heredia, LF
Tyler Smith, 2B
Rayder Ascanio, SS

James Paxton, LHP

Pitchers scheduled to get work today: James Pazos, Nick Vincent, Dan Altavilla, Dillon Overton (starter).


• Tyler O’Neill has returned from the WBC. While disappointed that Team Canada did not advance, he enjoyed the experience. “It was great to play in front of a lot of fans. Playing actually in an All-Star environment, postseason environment, it’s a good thing,” he said.

• Yovani Gallardo, who played for Team Mexico, is expected back in camp Wednesday.

• On tap tonight, Edwin Diaz could face Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz as Puerto Rico takes on the Dominican Republic. “He said he was going to laugh,” Diaz said of the potential matchup with Cano. Cano told me some of the friendly banter between the two. If Cano does not homer off Diaz, things could get interesting. I will leave it at that.

• Wednesday will be a marquee Mariners pitching matchup as Felix Hernandez will start for Venezuela against Team USA and starter Drew Smyly. Maybe it should be the WBCM?

• Something to keep an eye on: With the flexibility the Mariners have with utility infielders who can play outfield, I asked Servais if it was possible that they start the season with an eight-man bullpen and three-man bench. It is something they are considering. “We’ve discussed all kinds of different options and how you want to break, who you play against in that first road trip and how we match up,” he said. “It’s a decision we would make right at the end of camp. We’ve talked about it.”

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