Mariners release reliever Tuivailala, option 4

March 20th, 2020

SEATTLE -- Though the return to Spring Training remains uncertain at this time, the Mariners made several moves on Friday to reduce the number of players who’ll report to Major League camp when the time comes, including placing right-handed reliever on unconditional release waivers.

Additionally, infielders Donovan Walton and Patrick Wisdom and right-handed relievers Zac Grotz and Taylor Williams were optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. All four remain on the 40-man roster, but will report to Minor League camp once baseball resumes after the current coronavirus shutdown.

The moves leave the Mariners with 44 players on the Major League Spring Training roster. Of those, 31 are 40-man roster players and 13 are non-roster invitees.

Tuivailala’s release was unexpected, given he’d come into spring expected to compete for a spot as one of the club’s late-inning relievers and posted a 2.35 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23 innings over 23 appearances last season after rehabbing from a ruptured right Achilles tendon.

But the 27-year-old was dealing with an impingement in his right shoulder this spring and had yet to throw in a Cactus League game, so his status going forward was uncertain after agreeing to an $800,000 contract this year in his first season of arbitration eligibility.

The departure of Walton and Wisdom clears up some of the competition for the utility infielder role behind starters Evan White, Shed Long Jr., J.P. Crawford and Kyle Seager. Dee Gordon figures to be the primary backup to second baseman Long and shortstop Crawford, while Dylan Moore, Tim Lopes, José Marmolejos and Alen Hanson are battling for potentially two further utility spots and have the versatility to play in the outfield as well.

Infielder Sam Haggerty also remains in big league camp, though he was dealing with an elbow injury prior to last week’s shutdown.

Walton, 25, is the Mariners’ No. 24-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and got 16 at-bats in seven games as a September call-up last season after hitting .300/.390/.427 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 124 games at Double-A Arkansas. He is regarded primarily as a shortstop and second base candidate.

Wisdom, 28, signed as a free agent in November with the idea that his right-handed power bat might provide some needed balance as a backup first and third base candidate after putting up good numbers at Triple-A for the Rangers and Cardinals the last few years. But he went just 3-for-22 with two doubles and 14 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances in Cactus League play.

Grotz, Williams and Tuivailala were part of a big group of pitchers competing for bullpen roles. There are still 11 right-handed relievers remaining on the big league camp roster -- Dan Altavilla, Cody Anderson, Gerson Bautista, Brandon Brennan, Sam Delaplane, Carl Edwards Jr., Joey Gerber, Yoshihisa Hirano, Matt Magill, Yohan Ramirez and Erik Swanson.

Grotz, 27, spent most of last year with Arkansas, but also appeared in 14 games for Seattle over the final two months and posted a 4.15 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings in his first Major League stint.

Williams, 28, was claimed off waivers from the Brewers on Feb. 21 and has 71 games of MLB experience with Milwaukee over the past three years with a 5.23 ERA.