Mariners going with 2 regular OFs on roster
SEATTLE -- It required considerable last-minute maneuvering, but the Mariners set their 30-man Opening Day roster just prior to Thursday morning’s deadline, and now they will head to Houston to begin the 60-game season, which opens Friday at 6:10 p.m. PT.
Due to a broken bone in his left foot, the club placed starting catcher Tom Murphy on the 10-day injured list, as expected. Right-handed reliever Gerson Bautista was placed on the 45-day injured list with a strained right elbow and fellow reliever Austin Adams will remain on the 45-day injured list as he was deemed not ready to open the season after working hard to recover from October surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.
More surprising, rookie outfielder Jake Fraley was left off the 30-man roster, with the club opting to go with just two regular outfielders. They’ll fill the third spot initially by using a combination of utility players in left field. Jose Marmolejos, a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal, was added to the Major League roster and will likely get the Opening Day nod in left field as a left-handed bat against Astros right-hander Justin Verlander.
Tim Lopes and Dylan Moore, two more utility players, both made the initial roster and are right-handed hitters who can play left field. Veteran second baseman Dee Gordon also worked in left field at times during Summer Camp.
The club also signed veteran right-hander Bryan Shaw and added him to a bullpen that will open the season with 11 relievers. Shaw is a former Indians standout who was waived by the Rockies last week.
Those in the 60-player pool who weren’t named to the 30-man roster will work out in Tacoma and be available to be recalled any time.
Here’s the final 30-man roster:
Catcher (2): Austin Nola, Joe Hudson
A broken metatarsal bone in Murphy’s left foot changed the picture here at the last minute, opening the door for Nola to step in as the starting catcher and Hudson to grab the backup job. The two have combined for just eight MLB starts behind the plate -- four each -- so it’ll be trial by fire. Nola impressed the Mariners with his versatility last year while playing mostly first base, but they like his receiving skills and his bat, and he will catch the majority of games now. Hudson has appeared in just nine games in the big leagues over the past two years with the Angels and Cardinals, and he was a late arrival to Summer Camp. But the 29-year-old will handle backup duties until Murphy returns since the only other options are youngsters Cal Raleigh and Brian O’Keefe, neither of whom has played above Double-A. Joe Odom, who split time between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma last year, was added to the 60-player pool on Thursday for depth.
First base (1): Evan White
White, a 2017 first-round Draft pick, is part of the key group of rookies who will get their indoctrination in this 60-game season. The 24-year-old signed a six-year, $24 million contract in November that also includes three option years that could bring that total to $55 million if all goes well. The former Kentucky standout is making the jump from Double-A, but he’s an outstanding defender and his bat was impressive in Spring Training and Summer Camp.
Second base (2): Shed Long Jr., Dee Gordon
The 24-year-old Long will be given the opportunity as the primary starter and will lead off as well after impressing the Mariners with his bat speed and pop last September. The veteran Gordon will play a backup role at second and short, and he is an option in left field if needed.
Shortstop (1): J.P. Crawford
Crawford, 25, is a key part of the young nucleus and is looking to show he’s ready for his first full season in the Majors. Gordon came up in the big leagues as a shortstop and can capably fill in here as well.
Third base (1): Kyle Seager
With Félix Hernández’s departure, Seager is the longest-tenured Mariner and -- at 32 -- the only starter over 30 years old. After missing two months following surgery on his left hand and then getting off to a slow start at the plate, Seager was Seattle’s best hitter in the second half of 2019 (.260/.339/.524 with 17 homers and 45 RBIs in 68 games), and he’ll be counted on to again help anchor the young lineup and be a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Designated hitter (1): Daniel Vogelbach
Although he made the American League All-Star team last year, Vogelbach hit just .162/.286/.341 with nine homers in 59 games in the second half. But the burly 27-year-old will be given a chance to rebound this year, and the Mariners could certainly use the pop and patience he showed early last year.
Utility (3): Tim Lopes, José Marmolejos, Dylan Moore
Marmolejos, a former Nationals Minor Leaguer, earned a spot with a strong spring and Summer Camp. He’ll be making his MLB debut at age 27, and he brings some left-handed power to either left field, first base or DH as needed. Lopes can play anywhere on the field and was one of the club’s hottest hitters all preseason. Moore made the team again despite his late clearance to camp due to a positive COVID-19 test, and he also can play any position.
Outfield (2): Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith
It seems a little strange to open the season with just two regular outfielders, but the Mariners are well covered with versatile utility players and can use Marmolejos, Lopes, Smith or Gordon in left field. Smith figures to start in center and Lewis in right, though those two are interchangeable and Lewis played well in center before Smith was cleared to join camp last week. Lewis has looked like a budding star both last September, when he homered six times in his first 10 games, as well as in Summer Camp. Fraley and Braden Bishop struggled at the plate in camp, but they will be on call in Tacoma and very well could be added at some point in the coming weeks.
Starting pitchers (6): Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker, Yusei Kikuchi, Kendall Graveman, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn
The Mariners switched to a six-man rotation to help alleviate stress with the shortened build-up time after the 3 1/2-month shutdown. That opened the door for Dunn to join the rotation, and it gives Seattle two rookie starters, along with Sheffield. Gonzales returns as the Opening Day starter, while Graveman and Walker have both looked good as free-agent additions coming off two-year Tommy John layoffs.
Relievers (11): Dan Altavilla, Brandon Brennan, Nestor Cortes, Carl Edwards Jr., Zac Grotz, Matt Magill, Nick Margevicius, Anthony Misiewicz, Yohan Ramirez, Bryan Shaw, Taylor Williams
The expanded initial roster will allow three extra relievers. With injury and illness sidelining Yoshihisa Hirano and Gerson Bautista, that opens the door to youngsters like Misiewicz and Williams, who have impressed in camp. Adams was expected to split late-inning and closer duties with Magill and Altavilla, but instead will be given a little extra time to strengthen his surgically repaired left knee. Multi-inning options like Cortes, Margevicius, Williams and Brennan figure to be extra valuable with starters limited in their innings initially, while Ramirez makes the squad as a Rule 5 Draft addition.
Traveling taxi squad (3): Taylor Guilbeau, Joe Odom, Sam Haggerty
Because players can’t be called up from the Minor Leagues and won’t be allowed to be flown in on commercial flights to fill in for injured players, a three-man taxi squad will accompany the team on every road trip. Rules require a third catcher to be in that group and Odom was added on Thursday to fill that role, even though he wasn’t with the team in Summer Camp. Haggerty is a natural fit here as a utility guy who can play any position, while Guilbeau offers an extra reliever if needed.
Players assigned to Tacoma’s alternate training site
Pitchers: Isaiah Campbell, Sam Delaplane, Emerson Hancock, Joey Gerber, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Ljay Newsome, Erik Swanson, Juan Then, Art Warren, Aaron Fletcher, Taylor Guilbeau, Brandon Williamson
Catchers: Joe Odom, Brian O’Keefe, Cal Raleigh
Infielders: Sam Haggerty, Tyler Keenan, Noelvi Marte, Kaden Polcovich, Austin Shenton, Donovan Walton, Patrick Wisdom
Outfielders: Braden Bishop. Zach DeLoach, Jake Fraley, Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez