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Notes: Marmolejos' defense; TJ for Festa; moves

@gregjohnsmlb
March 4, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- José Marmolejos came to Mariners’ camp primarily as a candidate for first base. He was signed as a Minor League free agent after the club was intrigued by his nice left-handed bat, with which he hit .315/.366/.545 with 16 homers in 101 games for the Nationals’ Triple-A

PEORIA, Ariz. -- José Marmolejos came to Mariners’ camp primarily as a candidate for first base. He was signed as a Minor League free agent after the club was intrigued by his nice left-handed bat, with which he hit .315/.366/.545 with 16 homers in 101 games for the Nationals’ Triple-A Fresno club last year.

But the 27-year-old has played some outfield as well, and when manager Scott Servais gave him his first shot in left field in Sunday’s loss against the Cubs, the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder immediately delivered two outstanding plays.

Did Kelenic go full Bambino for first homer?

First he made an excellent sliding catch to rob Kris Bryant of a hit down the line leading off the third, and then he threw out Daniel Descalso trying to score from second on single in the fifth.

“The last two to three years I’ve played out there maybe twice a week,” Marmolejos said. “I grew up playing outfield, then when I got to my professional career is when I started playing a lot of first base. But going back to it the last couple years has been good. I told them, throw me out there. I’ll show you.”

Marmolejos was the Nationals’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2015 and ’16, and he was twice invited to the Nats’ Major League camp for Spring Training. But this with Seattle, he says, is a much better situation.

“It’s more special because before when I was with the Nationals, you could tell, OK, this is already set,” he said. “But here you could have the opportunity to break camp. You could have the opportunity to open some eyes and show you could really help the big league team.”

Servais acknowledged that he’s intrigued by Marmolejos and the defensive versatility would be key, though his bat clearly is the calling card. The Mariners feel if they can get him elevating the ball a little more, his power numbers could increase as well.

“He’s always hit,” Servais said. “There’s some things I know our hitting coaches really like about him. It’s very simple: he repeats his swing, he’s always controlled the strike zone pretty well. I think there’s a little bit more power in there than has played out. Sometimes guys make a little tweak and they can lift the ball a little bit more consistently. His at-bats are good. He knows what he’s doing in the batter’s box.”

Festa facing Tommy John surgery
Reliever Matt Festa, who posted a 4.70 ERA in 28 relief outings for the Mariners over the past two years, will undergo Tommy John surgery this week and is expected to miss the next 12-16 months.

The 26-year-old right-hander was a non-roster invitee to Major League camp this spring, but he threw just one bullpen session before being shut down with soreness in his right elbow.

“He came in, passed his physical and did well when he got here,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He threw his first bullpen and kind of complained afterward, and we’ve at least been able to determine what the issue is. He actually threw the ball quite well. The results he was getting were fine, but he didn’t feel well. We’ll get him fixed up and hopefully get him back at full strength.”

Festa flew to New York on Monday and will have the procedure done Thursday by Dr. David Altchek.

Eight sent to Minor League camp
The Mariners made their first significant round of moves on Monday, reassigning eight players to Minor League camp to reduce the Major League camp to 62 players.

Four pitchers were among those sent down -- Jack Anderson, Darren McCaughan, Penn Murfee and Wyatt Mills. Also reassigned were infielders Jordan Cowan and Connor Hoover and outfielders Eric Filia and Luis Liberato.

All eight players were in camp as non-roster invitees. The Mariners still have all the players on their 40-man roster in camp, as well as 21 non-roster invitees and one player -- reliever Austin Adams -- who is on the 60-day injured list.

Short hops from Peoria
Taijuan Walker’s Cactus League debut will be delayed a little further as the right-hander, who was a free-agent signing, will throw in an intersquad "B" game at the Mariners’ Peoria facility on Wednesday morning rather than face the Angels that afternoon in Tempe, Ariz.

Servais said Walker is ready to go, but they’ll hold him back a little longer rather than face an American League West rival that he’ll likely face several times in the regular season. Lefty Nestor Cortes and right-hander Justin Dunn will likely get the early-inning action against the Halos in the 12:10 p.m. PT road contest.

• First baseman Evan White was back in the lineup on Monday after sitting out four games due to tightness in his groin muscles and went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Kyle Seager also had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles.

• Right-hander Erik Swanson, slowed since the start of camp with a sore back, made his first appearance and allowed one run on two hits and struck out two in the seventh inning.

• Utility man Dylan Moore was held out another day as he recovers from a concussion, with his return expected on Wednesday after the team has a day off on Tuesday.

Up next
After their first off-day of camp on Tuesday, the Mariners return to Cactus League action on Wednesday in Tempe against the Angels. Dunn will get the start, with Dan Altavilla, Brandon Brennan, Taylor Guilbeau and Yoshihisa Hirano slated in relief. Right-hander Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Halos. The game can streamed live on MLB.TV and Gameday Audio.

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