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Battle for utility spot down to O'Malley, Motter

Both players will get ample opportunities to show versatility
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The competition for Seattle's utility infield position is at least temporarily down to Shawn O'Malley and newcomer Taylor Motter after Mike Freeman was designated for assignment Wednesday, though the Mariners are hopeful Freeman clears waivers and remains in the organization.

Freeman was moved off the 40-man roster to make room for Chase De Jong after the club acquired the right-handed starter from the Dodgers in a Wednesday night trade, but general manager Jerry Dipoto said it was a matter of choosing a player they hoped would slide through the waiver process.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The competition for Seattle's utility infield position is at least temporarily down to Shawn O'Malley and newcomer Taylor Motter after Mike Freeman was designated for assignment Wednesday, though the Mariners are hopeful Freeman clears waivers and remains in the organization.

Freeman was moved off the 40-man roster to make room for Chase De Jong after the club acquired the right-handed starter from the Dodgers in a Wednesday night trade, but general manager Jerry Dipoto said it was a matter of choosing a player they hoped would slide through the waiver process.

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"I'd love to have him in the organization, and I think he wants to stay here. I know he does," said manager Scott Servais. "He fits great with us, but decisions have to be made for different reasons. Right now with Motter and O'Malley probably a little ahead at shortstop, it's pick and choose where you are with your roster. But those two guys continue to battle for that spot."

Both players will get plenty of opportunities at the critical shortstop position in the coming weeks as starter Jean Segura was added to the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic roster on Thursday. O'Malley showed the Mariners last season he could play shortstop as well as all the other infield positions, and Motter, acquired from the Rays, has played everywhere on the field as well.

Video: TOR@SEA: Freeman dives to take away a hit from Pillar

Dipoto isn't ruling Freeman out of the mix either, if no other team snaps him up.

"Provided he stays in this camp after the DFA and waiver periods pass and is still a Mariner, it doesn't change our feelings of Mike," Dipoto said. "He's still in that mix with the other two for a roster position. He was the one we thought we had some roster flexibility with, largely because he's the oldest of the group and has the most limited track record."

Worth noting

• Reliever Steve Cishek played catch again Thursday as he continued his recovery from hip surgery, though he's still a ways off from throwing off a mound.

• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia continued his hot spring, lacing a two-run, pinch-hit single in the seventh inning of the Mariners' 6-2 win over Milwaukee. He's 7-for-12 with four doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in six games.

Hisashi Iwakuma will make his spring debut Friday against the Rangers at Surprise, and Yovani Gallardo gets his second start Saturday against the Rockies in Scottsdale, with James Paxton slated to make his first outing in a two-inning relief stint that day.

Felix Hernandez gets his second start in a Sunday split-squad game against the A's in Peoria, which also happens to be the Mariners' first televised contest of the spring.

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

Seattle Mariners, Mike Freeman