SHANNON DRAYER

Who will start opening day for the Mariners? A clue is revealed

Mar 21, 2018, 3:54 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm
With James Paxton starting Sunday, Felix Hernandez is in line to start opening day. (AP)...
With James Paxton starting Sunday, Felix Hernandez is in line to start opening day. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – After pitching in a minor league game Monday, James Paxton was asked when he would pitch next. Paxton knew better than to get tripped up by the not-so-innocent question, as the answer could have revealed the Mariners’ opening day starter, and Paxton preferred news of that magnitude to come from the manager.

“I’m not for certain yet, but it will be sometime this week,” he said haltingly before breaking into a laugh. “Yeah, I’m going to get the ball one more time in spring training.”

Felix Hernandez wants the ball on opening day for Mariners

There was always the chance both Felix Hernandez and Paxton could pitch on the same day once again, but that will not be the case. Paxton will start Sunday, which lines him up for the second start of the regular season. While the math is simple, manager Scott Servais will hold off on making the final decision until after Felix’s start Saturday.

“If it goes well, we will see,” Servais said. “We still haven’t made a decision yet. It really depends where he is at and how he comes out of it. If he does need one more, we will give him one more. We want to give him every opportunity to make the opening day start if it is good, if he is able to make the bench marks we have out there. We will see what happens Saturday.”

Should Felix struggle and not be able to reach a pitch count that would ensure he could throw 75 pitches on opening day, they could have Paxton throw less in Sunday’s game and be available for the opener. For now, it would appear the opening day start is Felix’s to lose.

Lineup! vs. Brewers

Dee Gordon, CF
Andrew Romine, SS
Robinson Cano, DH
Ryon Healy, 1B
Kyle Seager, 3B
Mitch Haniger, RF
Mike Zunino, C
Gordon Beckham, 2B
Ichiro Suzuki, LF

Mike Leake, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: Ryan Cook, James Pazos, Nick Vincent.

Notes

• Wednesday’s returns to the lineup from injury: Robinson Cano, Ichiro and Andrew Romine. Needing one more day (or an open DH spot) is Nelson Cruz. New to the injury list, Jean Segura, who sprained his right thumb Saturday when he fell on it fielding a pop fly. He will take fielding work Wednesday and is expected back in the lineup this weekend.

• Romine returns to a utility position battle that has intensified since he went down with a shoulder injury. Taylor Motter and Gordon Beckham have made some noise in Romine’s absence. “Both played very well,” Servais said. “Motter had a nice hot streak there for four or five games. Gordon has probably been our most consistent offensive guy throughout the entire spring from Day 1. They all can’t make the team. We will probably make the call on that probably this weekend, early next week.”

• Outfielder Ben Gamel, who is rehabbing an oblique injury, will get to swing a bat for the third straight day. He took dry swings Monday, hit off the tee Tuesday, and Wednesday he will hit off the tee again and if all goes well will be allowed to take a few flips as well.

• Servais confirmed that Hisashi Iwakuma will throw his first full bullpen since shoulder surgery this Sunday.

• The Mariners have added to their left-handed reliever depth, claiming Dario Alvarez off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Alvarez has made big league appearances in each of the last four seasons. In 20 games with the Rangers last year he had an ERA of 2.76, with 14 walks, 17 strikeouts and a home run. He has been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma and will report to minor league camp. With the move the 40-man roster is now at 38.

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