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McClendon still deciding on seven- or eight-man bullpen

Manager's decision to make Bloomquist, Weeks utility players takes away room on bench

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Lloyd McClendon isn't ready to state a preference for a seven- or eight-man bullpen yet, but the Mariners' skipper indicated Sunday he'd like to go with both Willie Bloomquist and Rickie Weeks in utility-type roles this season. And that decision would make things tighter for the pitching staff.

"We'll see how things play out," McClendon said. "I've always been fond of eight guys down there. I'm not sure if it's going to be feasible this year. We'll see."

The Mariners were one of the few teams in the Majors to go with an eight-man bullpen for an extended length of time last year, adding an extra arm for the final three months after Brandon Maurer forced his way into the picture with a stellar showing for an already-stout group.

"It wasn't by design. It was something we discovered that worked," McClendon said. "And I think it works in the American League probably much more than in the National League because you don't pinch hit that much."

But the obvious catch is that going with eight relievers means having just three position players on the bench instead of four. If Seattle goes with a backup catcher, a platoon situation in the outfield with Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano, plus both Weeks and Bloomquist on the bench, that would force a seven-man 'pen.

Weeks has never played anything except second base, but he will work in the outfield as well as corner infield spots this spring to add to his versatility. McClendon said he'd like to keep Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager around 150 games in the field, so that opens about 24 games at second and third. Weeks could get time as a right-handed option to both left fielder Dustin Ackley and first baseman Logan Morrison as well.

"I would say as we speak now, probably 50 percent of his at-bats will come from the outfield," McClendon said. "And they'll come from first and third."

Weeks isn't a candidate for the backup shortstop spot, however, so that's where Bloomquist -- or Brad Miller if he doesn't win the starting role -- would be needed on the bench.

McClendon said he felt hamstrung last September after Bloomquist's injury, forced to play Seager more down the stretch than he felt was good for the youngster. That's why he sees room for both Weeks and Bloomquist, who is coming back from knee surgery.

"I think we needed it last year," he said. "So I think there's a need for it, yeah."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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