SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Mariners re-assigned outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the minor leagues before their final game of spring training Tuesday. With the move, the Mariners’ roster is now at 30.
There are very few decisions left to be made. The bullpen appears to be set with Casey Lawrence earning the final spot. The utility battle comes down to Andrew Romine and Taylor Motter, and that decision has been put on hold possibly because of the toughest decision the Mariners will need to make before rosters are due to be set at 9 a.m. Thursday morning.
The question will be if Ichiro is ready to play after missing most of the games this spring due to his late arrival and calf injury.
Mariners manager Scott Servais got a look at him in action Monday night in a minor league game.
“Last night he moved around much better,” Servais said of Ichiro. “He didn’t favor the leg at all. I don’t quite think he is 100 percent, but he is close.”
Ichiro is expected to play seven innings Tuesday against the Rockies with Servais hoping he will be tested in left field.
“The leg is what worries me, making sure he can move around,” he said. “That there is nothing he is guarding against in left field. Being able to cover the ground he needs to get there. He didn’t get much action last night, we will see if he does today.”
Regardless of the outcome, Ichiro will travel back to Seattle with the Mariners following the game. If he looks good to go in the field, Servais trusts that Ichiro will be ready to go at the plate.
“He’s played a lot of baseball,” Servais pointed out. “It’s more about getting him healthy and making sure he is ready to go when the bell rings Thursday.
“I’m very hopeful Ichiro will be ready to go.”
Lineup! vs. Rockies
Jean Segura, SS
Mitch Haniger, RF
Ryon Healy, 1B
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Guillermo Heredia, CF
Mike Marjama, C
Andrew Romine, 2B
Taylor Motter, 3B
Marco Gonzales, LHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Dan Altavilla, Edwin Diaz.
• The Mariners have signed veteran free agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a minor league deal. Werth, a 2009 All-Star with six 20 home run seasons to his credit, will report to Peoria for extended spring training. “Looking from afar, he has been on a lot of winning teams,” Servais said, noting that he had no personal connection to Werth. “He knows how to play, he controls the strike zone very well. Good veteran presence in the clubhouse. He was looking for an opportunity to extend his career. Our group felt we had opportunities with some at-bats at the Triple-A level. He certainly hasn’t had any spring training, but I am excited to have him in the organization.” Werth, 38, hit .226 with 10 homers and a .715 on-base plus slugging percentage in 70 games with the Nationals last season.
• A number jumped out at me from the reports on the big leaguers in the minor league games yesterday: 103. As in 103 pitches thrown by Mike Leake. Seeing a pitch count over 90 in spring training is unusual. “Mike Leake was driven,” Servais said. “He wanted to get the pitch count up. … It was a good outing for him. It was something he wanted to do. He’s adamant if he has a shutout or a really good game going in that first one we don’t pull him because of pitch count.”
• The Mariners have handled their starters a little differently this year. Normally they have pulled back on the starters in their final outing, keeping the pitch counts more in the 60-70 range after getting it closer to 85 in their second to last starts. “It was a different approach,” Servais acknowledged. “To keep them moving, keep them ramped up so they can hit the ground running in their first outing.” Marco Gonzales is scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches Tuesday.
• I asked Servais if Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano have been able to get their legs back to 100 percent for the start of the season after quad and hamstring strains, respectively. “Robbie is, there is no question there,” he said. “Cruzy is not going to play today, we will probably test him a little more at the workout tomorrow, just to know where to go with him. If he’s on first there is a ball hit in the gap, can he score? Those kind of things.”
• Ben Gamel (oblique), Erasmo Ramirez (lat) and Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder) will travel to Seattle with the Mariners and be sent out on rehab assignments when they are ready.