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Mariners RHP Gerson Bautista
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Mariners notebook: Bullpen arms have to make most of limited chances

Gerson Bautista is one of 24 relievers competing for a role in the Mariners bullpen. (Getty)

Let’s play two! At the same time!

Mariners’ brass expect big step forward for Justus Sheffield

Thursday is a split-squad day for the Mariners, who have games with the Giants and White Sox in the afternoon.

Split squads and B-games will be important this spring for Seattle with the number of players in big league camp and a late start to minor league camp. The Mariners aren’t the only team in Arizona to have a mammoth roster. I’ve heard the Giants and Rangers have rosters in the upper 70s, which sounds ridiculous but maybe will become more the norm.

It is the pitchers of course who need the extra games more than anyone else. The Mariners have 24 relievers in camp, and technically even more than that as some starters could conceivably fill swing roles. The M’s will need to get that number down to eight for the regular season. Minor league options will come into play for some spots but with others it will be more about what is seen over the next 3 1/2 weeks.

“It’s not the results, more process-oriented,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said when asked what they were looking for. “Are they throwing strikes? Are they putting hitters away? Are they getting balls to the spots in the strike zone that they are trying to get to? The consistency. Understanding that they are all not going to be perfect or really good every time they are out there, can they still manage their way through an inning without it getting out of hand?”

The tough thing for the relievers is they don’t have a lot of time to establish themselves and show what they can do. Have a bad outing? Chances are good early on they won’t get to pitch again for a few days because that’s how schedules work. One thing we have seen in recent years is pitchers show up in camp ready. They are throwing more bullpens before they arrive. It seems the velocities that we have seen this week not just from the Mariners but all opponents are much higher in first outings than what we would have seen even five years ago. The offseason work for many is so different now and what we see early in camp reflects that.

So all that said, relievers we should see in Thursday’s two games include Carl Edwards Jr., Sam Delaplane, Aaron Fletcher, Taylor Williams and Yohan Ramirez in Peoria, and Gerson Bautista, Jack Anderson, Anthony Misiewicz and Penn Murfee in Glendale.

Lineups!

Mariners vs Giants (Peoria)

Shed Long Jr., 2B
J.P. Crawford, SS
Kyle Seager, 3B
Carlos Gonzales, DH
Tom Murphy, C
Jarred Kelenic, RF
Jose Marmolejos, 1B
Braden Bishop, CF
Jose Siri, LF

Logan Gilbert, RHP

Mariners at White Sox (Glendale)

Jake Fraley, LF
Mallex Smith, CF
Kyle Lewis, RF
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Patrick Wisdom, 3B
Tim Lopes, 2B
Cal Raleigh, C
Colin Cowgill, DH
Donovan Walton, SS

Ljay Newsome, RHP

Early spring standout

To say that Tim Lopes’ start to the spring is opening eyes would be an inaccurate statement. Lopes is 5 for 5 with four doubles thus far, and the Mariners believe he can hit. Is there a place on the team for him?

“The thing is, where does he fit in on the field?” Servais said of the utility role candidate. “He’s got work to do at a number of positions. The old saying, if you hit you’ll play, they will find you a spot. He knows he can swing it, now we have got to find him spots he’s comfortable in. We are not looking for Gold Glove defense but make the routine plays.”

Mariners notes

• With 29 minor league call-ups, the Mariners have a total of 100 players available for Thursday’s split-squad games.

• Gilbert is scheduled to pitch one inning, but if he is efficient with his pitches could come back out for a second.

• Dylan Moore is expected to miss a few days as he goes through concussion protocol following a collision that occurred when he stole second base Wednesday against the Reds.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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