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Notes: Mariners line up arms; Ichiro takes hill

Williams claimed off Brewers' waivers; Valdez DFA'd
@gregjohnsmlb
February 21, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- While Mother Nature might have different ideas, given the forecast for rain on Saturday in the Phoenix area, the Mariners have eight pitchers lined up for their Cactus League opener against the Padres at Peoria Stadium. Left-hander Nestor Cortes is scheduled to start against Padres lefty Cal

PEORIA, Ariz. -- While Mother Nature might have different ideas, given the forecast for rain on Saturday in the Phoenix area, the Mariners have eight pitchers lined up for their Cactus League opener against the Padres at Peoria Stadium.

Left-hander Nestor Cortes is scheduled to start against Padres lefty Cal Quantrill in the 12:10 p.m. PT game, which will be a radio-only broadcast. The Mariners' first televised Spring Training game will be Sunday’s 12:10 p.m. PT contest against the Rangers in Peoria.

Among the other tentative hurlers for the Mariners will be relievers Sam Hirano, Dan Altavilla, Brandon Brennan and Anthony Misiewicz, who are all among the large group battling in a wide-open bullpen competition this spring.

Cortes, acquired from the Yankees on Nov. 25, is among those who’ll likely be in the bullpen battle as he’s more of a long-relief candidate.

Mariners manager Scott Servais hadn’t announced his position lineup on Friday, but he noted that it will be a mixed bag of starters and backups, typical of the Spring Training dynamics.

“You won’t have all the regular guys,” Servais said. “We have to play the next day again and you’ve got to balance the rosters a little bit. But it’ll be good to see them out there playing a game. Let’s get the competition on.”

Upcoming pitching matchups

The tentative plan calls for lefty Yusei Kikuchi to start Sunday’s game against the Rangers, with top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert to follow out of the bullpen.

Marco Gonzales will make his spring debut on Monday against the Cubs in Peoria. Free agent addition Kendall Graveman gets the road opener on Tuesday against the Brewers in Phoenix, with rookie Justus Sheffield also slated to pitch in that game.

Justin Dunn, the club’s other rookie rotation contender, is lined up to start Wednesday in Goodyear against the Reds, with veteran lefty Wei-Yin Chen making his debut in relief. Chen, who was released by the Marlins with $22 million still owed on his contract, signed with Seattle on a Minor League deal.

Williams claimed off waivers

The Mariners added right-handed pitcher Taylor Williams via a waiver claim from the Brewers, with right-hander Phillips Valdez designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.

Williams, 28, graduated from Camas High School in southwest Washington and attended Kent State before he was drafted by Milwaukee in the fourth round in 2013. He was regarded as a rising star for the Brewers in the spring of '15, but he hurt his elbow and wound up missing 2015-16 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

While Williams has posted a 5.23 ERA in 71 outings for the Brewers over the past three seasons, he had a 2.83 ERA in 54 innings over 46 appearances for Triple-A San Antonio in 2019 and features a fastball in the mid-90s. Perhaps most importantly, he was recently granted a fourth Minor League option, which means that the Mariners can send him down to Triple-A Tacoma without exposing him to waivers as long as they keep him on the 40-man.

Valdez, 28, was claimed off waivers from the Rangers on Nov. 1. The Mariners now have seven days to trade, release or outright Valdez to the Minors.

Ichiro takes the mound

The Mariners held two situational hitting and fielding competitions on Friday afternoon as their final warmup before starting Cactus League play. The controlled situations were intended to focus on baserunning and outfield relays, with Servais pitching to hitters on one field and Ichiro Suzuki doing the throwing on the other field.

“I have a feeling there will be a lot more people watching his game than mine,” Servais said as a prediction that proved true when many fans flocked to see the future Hall of Famer firing batting practice to a group that included top prospects Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic.

Ichiro has been helping coach all spring and is adapting well to his new role.

“He’s in every meeting,” Servais said. “He’s listening, getting a good feel for our young guys. He really likes our young players. He likes how they’re wired. There’s things that he sees, I’ve often mentioned, that some of us don’t. As the season goes on and Spring Training goes on, he’ll be more comfortable.”

Short takes from Peoria

• Kyle Hill, the Mariners' 10th-round Draft pick last year, has been suspended 50 games for a failed drug test for amphetamines. The 22-year-old right-hander went 1-2 with a 6.05 ERA for Class A West Virginia last season.

Rule 5 Draft pick Yohan Ramirez looked sharp in his first live batting practice session on Friday as he continues impressing with a fastball that pops and a quality slider as well.

• While Rodriguez and Kelenic again drew a lot of attention in their batting practice session, veteran outfielder Carlos González quietly showed the most-consistent power stroke among their foursome.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.