PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach continued his red-hot spring with his sixth Cactus League home run in Friday's 5-5 tie against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., launching a solo shot to right field off eight-year Major League veteran Jeanmar Gomez.Vogelbach has hit four home runs in his
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach continued his red-hot spring with his sixth Cactus League home run in Friday's 5-5 tie against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., launching a solo shot to right field off eight-year Major League veteran Jeanmar Gomez.
Vogelbach has hit four home runs in his last 15 at-bats over a seven-game stretch and has a .388/.508/.878 line for the spring with six doubles and 12 RBIs, in addition to the six long balls in 49 at-bats.
"Another day, another home run," said manager Scott Servais. "Vogey is swinging the bat great. He's really had a nice spring. On that particular pitch, it's something we haven't seen him do much. He gets out and gets around on that ball and pulled it out of the yard.
"Obviously he's got power and is some kind of strong. And his understanding of the strike zone is outstanding for a young player. I'm glad to see him keep it rolling."
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The question now is what the Mariners do with their No. 11 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, since starting first baseman Ryon Healy is healthy after missing the start of camp following hand surgery.
But the 24-year-old has forced his way into the conversation as the Mariners look how to finalize their 25-man roster.
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"Oh, we're looking at him," Servais said. "There's no doubt. We talk about his personality and demeanor and where the confidence level is for him. You love to see that in a young player. He certainly has put his name in discussion here as we get down to the final cuts."
Beckham released, Bergman sent down
Veteran utility infielder James Beckham was released Friday and right-handed starter Christian Bergman was reassigned to Minor League camp, leaving 36 players in Major League camp.
Beckham had a strong spring, hitting .340 with five doubles, a triple and a home run in 47 at-bats. But the 31-year-old was behind veteran Andrew Romine and returnee Taylor Motter on the depth chart as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal, and will now have a chance to pursue other opportunities.
The decision between Romine and Motter will be finalized this weekend, with Romine likely holding the upper hand based on his experience.
Bergman posted a 4.97 ERA in five outings, but is also a non-roster invitee who was ticketed all along for the Triple-A Tacoma rotation.
Iwakuma's comeback continues
Veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma continues progressing quicker than expected as he returns from September shoulder surgery, and the Mariners are starting to think the 36-year-old could help at some point this season after re-signing with the club on a Minor League deal.
Iwakuma threw with pretty good velocity off the front of the mound again Thursday, and he is targeted for a full bullpen session before the club breaks camp on Tuesday.
"I'm hopeful he can really impact us at some point as kind of our secret weapon," Servais said. "We all know what Kuma brings and how he competes. He's got to get his stuff back, but everything indicates he feels really good, the ball is coming out good. He hasn't thrown a full bullpen yet, but he's getting close."
Servais noted that Iwakuma relies on location and an array of deceptive offspeed pitches, and was only throwing his fastball around 88 mph even when very effective in recent years, but said he'll have to work his way back to that point in order to create the needed separation between his fastball and secondary pitches.
But Servais and Stottlemyre have loved what they've seen this spring.
"Mel is excited about it, too," Servais said. "It just looks different. His arm is in a different slot. He looks healthier than he did last year when he was trying to ramp it up and come back last year."
Ramirez working towards return
Erasmo Ramirez won't be ready by the time the Mariners need a fifth starter on April 11, but Servais remains hopeful the right-hander can rejoin the rotation later in the month after he threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday.
The 27-year-old has been sidelined since straining the lat muscle in his right side during the first week of camp, but he is gearing up his throwing, and had no issues after firing all fastballs in his first mound session.
"He looked really good," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. "He's been ready for this for a little bit. From a health and training standpoint, we wanted to make sure that thing had enough time to heal. But he was throwing real free and easy. The next one, we'll start to incorporate some changeups and then start to go.
"We're anxious to get him back. He did some good things for us last year and he's still getting better. He's still learning. He's still young."
Ramirez will throw another bullpen session early next week, then advance to live batting practice before beginning rehab games in the Minor Leagues in April.
"He won't be ready by April 11, but maybe the next turn or turn after that in that spot is what we'd be looking for," Servais said.
Because of three off-days in the first nine days of the regular season, the Mariners will open the year needing just four starters, with Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales lined up to handle the early work.
Ariel Miranda figures to be ticketed for the fifth-starter's spot -- which isn't needed until the final game of the first road trip at Kansas City -- until Ramirez is ready.
Another player quietly putting himself into contention for a roster spot should Ichiro Suzuki not be ready to go by Opening Day, is veteran outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who hit his third home run in the past four games with an opposite field, two-run shot in the eighth inning.
The 30-year-old is a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal, but he is playing well after dealing with a hamstring strain. Nieuwenhuis is one of just five healthy outfielders remaining in camp, along with Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ichiro, who has played just four games due to a sore calf, before getting hit in the head by a pitch in a Minor League game on Friday.
"Kirk has swung the bat well," Servais said. "He's taken some balls the other way and really has a lot of power that way. Today is a good day to hit here with the wind blowing out to left field. He missed some time early in camp, but has come back here and swung the bat very well the last 5-6 days."
Shortstop Jean Segura, sidelined since Saturday with a sprained right thumb, took batting practice on Friday and is expected to return to Cactus League play in Saturday night's game against the Cubs.
Second baseman Robinson Cano, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and left fielder Ichiro Suzuki all played in Minor League games on Friday so that they could hit every inning and get extra at-bats after missing time with minor injuries, with the hope being that all three will then start on Saturday against the Cubs.
Hernandez gets the start in Saturday's 6:40 p.m. PT game against the Cubs at Peoria Stadium. It will be the veteran's first Cactus League outing since getting hit in the right arm by a line drive in his spring debut vs. the Cubs on Feb. 26. If all goes well, Hernandez is lined up to make his 11th Opening Day start Thursday in Seattle against the Indians. Miranda, Marc Rzepczynski and Dan Altavilla are also scheduled to throw. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.