Romero hopes to crack first-base platoon

Mariners' outfielder trying new position at Spring Training

February 21st, 2016

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Outfielder Stefen Romero will happily do whatever it takes to crack the Mariners' Major League roster, so when the club mentioned he should start working out at first base this spring, he looked at it like another avenue.

The 27-year-old put up good numbers at Triple-A Tacoma last year, hitting .292 with 17 homers and 79 RBIs in 116 games. He'll continue to work primarily in the outfield this camp, but he's already begun taking ground balls and working on his footwork around the bag in preparation for when the full squad takes the field on Wednesday.

Romero played some first base at Oregon State in 2009-10, but he spent the majority of his time with the Beavers at third base. The Mariners transitioned him to second base after drafting him in the 12th round in 2010, then shifted him to the outfield in '13.

With Seattle looking for a right-handed hitter to platoon with Adam Lind at first base, Romero will join Jesus Montero, Dae-Ho Lee and Gaby Sanchez as the primary contenders for that spot this spring.

"They told me to just get some work there and that I'll get some reps in games this spring. Just be prepared," Romero said Sunday. "I'd already kind of seen what was going on, so I was tinkering with my first-base glove and taking ground balls already. So I was a little ahead in that aspect."

Romero played three games at first at Tacoma last year, but he will draw primarily on his Oregon State days at the position.

"When you get out there in a game situation, it speeds up a little bit. But it takes me back to when I was playing college, so it really wasn't as big a transition as when I moved from the infield to the outfield," he said. "You just have to remember the fundamentals, and it feels like riding a bike again."

Romero has appeared in 85 games with the Mariners over the past two seasons, strictly in the outfield, but he has hit just .192 with inconsistent playing time. So while he's established himself offensively at the Triple-A level, he's hoping to show the Mariners' new regime what he's capable of doing.

"There are a lot of new faces in the front office and coaching staff," he said. "It almost feels like deja vu from when I first broke with the team in 2014 with an all-new coaching staff. It's almost that same feeling, that I'll have a chance to come in and show what I can do for a fresh pair of eyes. Hopefully this year I'll get that opportunity again."


• Veteran starter Hisashi Iwakuma and newly acquired Nathan Karns were among the pitchers who took their first turn at throwing off the mound in 10-minute bullpen sessions on Sunday.

Danny Hultzen, who is converting to a relief role, also threw for the first time, along with Joe Wieland, Ryan Cook, Mayckol Guaipe, Adrian Sampson, David Rollins and Jonathan Aro. That group will now take two days off before its next bullpen sessions on Wednesday.

• Monday's bullpen group will consist of starting candidates James Paxton and Mike Montgomery, as well as relievers Charlie Furbush, Vidal Nuno, Joaquin Benoit, Tony Zych, Evan Scribner, Brad Mills and Cody Martin.

That will complete the first series of bullpens, with Saturday's first group of Wade Miley, Taijuan Walker, Joel Peralta, Donn Roach, Steve Cishek, Justin De Fratus, Casey Coleman and Blake Parker returning to the mound on Tuesday.

• The only pitchers who won't have thrown by Monday will be Felix Hernandez and lefty reliever Paul Fry. Hernandez is on his normal spring schedule, which has him going slow early before taking the mound later this week. Fry has been dealing with illness.

• Manager Scott Servais said he's not sure exactly where center fielder Leonys Martin will hit in the lineup, but he expects him and other baserunning threats -- like Nori Aoki and Ketel Marte -- to push things on the basepaths this spring..

"He could be at the top, it could be right at the bottom," Servais said. "But he's a table setter. He runs the bases well. He's got a track record of stealing bases, which I love. The athleticism part that [GM] Jerry [Dipoto] has talked about fits right in as far as putting pressure on other teams. You'll see a lot of that from us in Spring Training. The guys that can run, we want them to run. We've got to find out what they can do."

The Mariners were 21st in MLB with 69 stolen bases last year and 29th in stolen-base percentage at 60.5 after being thrown out 45 times.