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Romine leading strong trio of utility candidates

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Versatility is the key for any good utility player, and the Mariners have several quality candidates battling for that role this spring, with veteran Andrew Romine living up to his billing as a jack-of-all-trades in the first week of Cactus League games.

Romine started at shortstop and went 1-for-3 in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Indians. He's also started games at second and third and is 6-for-12 with a home run and double in five games.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Versatility is the key for any good utility player, and the Mariners have several quality candidates battling for that role this spring, with veteran Andrew Romine living up to his billing as a jack-of-all-trades in the first week of Cactus League games.

Romine started at shortstop and went 1-for-3 in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Indians. He's also started games at second and third and is 6-for-12 with a home run and double in five games.

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Taylor Motter handled the utility job last year, and veteran Gordon Beckham also returns. But Romine, claimed off waivers from the Tigers in November, offers the ability to play every position on the field as well as a switch-hit bat and appears to be the early favorite, based on his extensive Major League track record and the fact that the Mariners went out and got him this winter.

"There's a reason he's been in the league for a while, and he's going to continue to be in the league," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He brings a valuable skill set, no doubt. He gives you options."

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Romine played all nine positions -- including pitcher -- in a game for the Tigers last year, a feat the Mariners won't likely pursue. But the 32-year-old can play a solid shortstop, which is usually the biggest challenge for any utility infielder, and he also has extensive experience in the outfield.

Video: Must C Combo: Romine plays all nine positions

The eight-year veteran also has a reputation as a strong clubhouse presence, while owning a career line of .238/.294/.307.

"Romine has played really well," Servais said. "He's been through this drill in Spring Training. He knows he's one of those guys that has to get ready to play every day."

The Mariners got a good feel for Motter last year after acquiring him from the Rays. The 28-year-old got off to a torrid start at the plate and is also capable of playing any position, but he tailed off in the final five months and wound up hitting .198/.257/.326 in 258 at-bats.

But Motter is making a strong case of his own again this spring. He laced an RBI triple in the second inning to drive in Seattle's first run in Wednesday's game and is 5-for-14 with two doubles as well in five games.

"Taylor is trying to use the whole field," Servais said. "Last year he got locked in and was easy to pitch against and defend. It's something he's worked on this spring. He's using the whole field and driving the ball. That's a good sign."

Video: SEA@CLE: Motter laces RBI triple to right-center

Beckham, who spent most of last season with Triple-A Tacoma before a September callup, is in camp as a non-roster invite on a Minor League contract and has made his presence known with a 7-for-11 start at the plate, including a homer and double. The former White Sox second baseman went 1-for-3 on Wednesday.

"He's off to a good start," Servais said of Beckham. "He worked his tail off in the offseason, and he's starting to get some results."

Video: SEA@CLE: Beckham hits a single to center

Miranda survives hard shot
The Mariners have already suffered injuries to starting pitchers Felix Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez this spring, but they avoided another to Ariel Miranda on Wednesday on a hard line drive by Lonnie Chisenhall that glanced off Miranda's calf and rolled toward the third-base line.

Miranda hustled after the ball and made a difficult throw to first to get the third out of the second inning and strand runners at first and third.

"His calf will be a little sore," Servais said. "But what a recovery, and he made a great play on that. He's real athletic, and he got after it. Not many guys on our staff make that play after they get smoked like that. He needed the out, he wanted to get out of the inning."

The Mariners have shut down Ramirez for two weeks due to a strained lat, and Hernandez is temporarily sidelined after getting hit by a line drive in the forearm Monday. If either is out for long, Miranda would likely move into the rotation. He allowed four hits and one run over three innings to the Indians in his second outing of the spring.

Video: SEA@CLE: Miranda fields deflection, gets the out

Injury update
• Reliever David Phelps, returning from September bone spur surgery on his elbow, threw live batting practice without any issues on Tuesday and is expected to begin pitching in games by the end of this week.

Nick Vincent has some soreness in his arm and hasn't thrown in a game yet, but Servais said it's more of a precaution as there is plenty of time remaining to get relievers ready for the season.

• Two of the club's top bullpen prospects -- Art Warren and Matthew Festa -- have yet to throw in games due to hip problems. Warren has done all his throwing, but his limited mobility kept him out of fielding drills until Tuesday. He's expected to be game ready in a day or two, while Festa is further away as he deals with a hip issue that has sidelined him since the start of camp.

• Right fielder Mitch Haniger will see a hand specialist in the next two days and hopes to be cleared to begin swinging the bat. Haniger has been held back from hitting for the past five days, but has done all the other work and should begin playing as soon as he's cleared.

• Infielders Zach Vincej (quad) and Rey Navarro (hamstring) are both sidelined by minor injuries. Navarro has yet to see Cactus League action, while Vincej played three games before being held out.

Up next
Right-hander Mike Leake gets his second spring start on Thursday when the Mariners host the Royals in a 12:10 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium. Casey Lawrence and Chasen Bradford are among the relievers slated for action in the game, which will be broadcast live on ROOT Sports and MLB.TV.

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

Seattle Mariners, Gordon Beckham, Taylor Motter, Andrew Romine