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Mariners option Ariel Miranda to Triple-A, still deciding on second lefty bullpen arm

After trying Ariel Miranda as a reliever, the Mariners will keep him stretched out as a starter in Triple-A. (AP)

The Mariners are providing a little more intrigue than expected as spring training nears the end.

Daniel Vogelbach, who appeared to be penciled in to at least a platoon role on the big league roster, was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday. On Saturday, the Mariners announced that Ariel Miranda had been sent down as well. There was a good amount of thought that Miranda would start the season in the bullpen, that will not happen.

Miranda has had an up-and-down spring, highlighted by a one-inning relief appearance where he touched 97 mph on the radar gun. There were struggles, though, including his Friday night outing against the Angels where he gave up four runs in an inning and a number of two-strike hits.

Drayer: Who will be the Mariners’ No. 2 starter?

“It’s been hit or miss a little bit this spring,” manager Scott Servais said of Miranda. “It’s been some very good innings, some other ones got away from him a little bit. Overall how has he thrown the ball this spring? I think just OK. I don’t think he has lit it up at all, I don’t think he has been horrible, I think it’s just been OK.”

With a full rotation and options in the bullpen, the Mariners do not need to go with “just OK.” The bullpen door seems to be closed for the time being as Servais said that Miranda will stay stretched out as a starter.

“We are trying to do what’s best for Miranda and how he fits into our plans, I think Ariel fits best as a starter. That’s the decision we made and we are going to keep him in that role in Tacoma to start out.”

The question now is about who fills the second lefty role in the pen. Nick Hagadone, Dean Kiekhefer, Dillon Overton and James Pazos remain in camp. Hagadone and Kiekhefer are not on the 40-man roster so a move would need to be made for them to break camp with the big team. Hagadone has pitched well and has good experience, but there is the question if he can go back to back coming off a second elbow fracture. Overton is an interesting option and coming off a couple of good outings, including Saturday’s start against the Rangers, so he would seem to be an option for the pen in a lefty/swing type role. It appears the Mariners will go in a different direction, however.

“We want to keep him stretched as a starter,” Servais said. “It’s something we could consider down the road, but we like him, we like him as a starter right now.”

There is always the possibility of a late add, and with teams starting to trim rosters and veterans nearing opt-out dates, the second lefty is perhaps wearing a different uniform right now, much like Nick Vincent was a year ago. For the time being, one thing is certain: the Mariners have lefty starter depth in Tacoma.