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Mariners pondering an eight-man bullpen

March 26, 2017

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manager Scott Servais says the Mariners are looking at the strong possibility of opening the season with an extra arm in the bullpen. So the question now is what eight relievers would make up that crew?You can pencil in closer Edwin Diaz, right-handers Dan Altavilla, Nick Vincent

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manager Scott Servais says the Mariners are looking at the strong possibility of opening the season with an extra arm in the bullpen. So the question now is what eight relievers would make up that crew?
You can pencil in closer Edwin Diaz, right-handers Dan Altavilla, Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner and lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski. Free-agent signee Casey Fien appears a solid bet to grab one of the right-handed spots as well.
But with Steve Cishek, Shae Simmons and Tony Zych all expected to open the year on the 10-day disabled list, that still leaves two spots.
One figures to be a lefty to complement Rzepczynski and the favorite would seem to be hard-throwing rookie James Pazos, acquired from the Yankees over the winter. Side-winder Dean Kiekhefer, who had a 5.32 ERA in 26 games for the Cardinals last year, is also still in camp as a non-roster invite.
And while Servais indicated Saturday that Dillon Overton would likely remain a starter, he also is still in camp after a strong showing in several Cactus League opportunities.
But unless the Mariners go with three lefties, they also have another opening for a right-hander and the remaining healthy option there is Jonathan Aro, another non-roster invitee who put up a 2.48 ERA for Triple-A Tacoma last season after being acquired from the Red Sox.
Of course, general manager Jerry Dipoto could also pluck other candidates off the waiver wire or trade front this week as other teams set their final rosters, as he did last year in adding Vincent just before the regular season.
Pazos, 26, has impressed the Mariners from the start of camp. The lefty made 18 appearances for the Yankees over the past two seasons and is a power arm with upside. He allowed a home run in Sunday's 7-6 win over the Reds.
"He's got really good stuff, no doubt about that," Servais said. "The life on the fastball is really good. The thing that surprised me as much as anything was his ability to land his breaking ball, which is really important in that role because most times the first guy he is going to face is a lefty. I like how he has gone about things in camp and I think he's got a bright future."
Kiekhefer hasn't drawn as much attention in camp, but the club sees him as an interesting situational lefty.
"He's not so much the length guy because the righties are not his strength and he knows that. He knows who he is," Servais said. "But I like how he goes about his business. He's a pitch-maker and he throws strikes with the breaking ball as well as the fastball. There's a reason we've kept him in camp. We like what we see."
Aro came to camp as a long shot, but is still in the hunt as well. Servais says his "process" has probably been a little better than his results in a spring where his ERA stands at 5.91.
"He's a much different and better pitcher than we saw last spring," Servais said. "He'll be one of the guys in the mix as we go down to the wire."
The Mariners can afford the extra arm initially after sending Daniel Vogelbach to Triple-A, leaving Danny Valencia as the full-time first baseman. With the versatility of utility man Taylor Motter, Seattle will likely go with a bench of Motter, catcher Carlos Ruiz and either outfielder Guillermo Heredia or Ben Gamel.

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


@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.