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Mariners set tentative opening-week rotation

Servais has plan for four-game set in Houston: Cruz; Cano return
March 28, 2017

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's not set in stone, but manager Scott Servais indicated Tuesday the Mariners will open the season next week with James Paxton pitching in the third game in Houston, followed by fellow lefty Drew Smyly the following day in the series finale.That would set up the Mariners'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's not set in stone, but manager Scott Servais indicated Tuesday the Mariners will open the season next week with James Paxton pitching in the third game in Houston, followed by fellow lefty Drew Smyly the following day in the series finale.
That would set up the Mariners' rotation in order as Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Paxton and Smyly against the Astros, with Yovani Gallardo opening a three-game series in Anaheim on Friday.
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The only uncertainty was whether Paxton or Smyly would go first, since both are scheduled to pitch a couple innings in their final tuneup in Friday's Cactus League tilt against the Rockies in a game that will be started by Smyly.
"Right now, Pax probably goes three and Smyly four," Servais said. "They're all going to pitch. Everybody gets caught up in who is your two, who's your three, who's your four? They're all going to pitch. That's the way we'll start out, and we'll see where that goes."

Eventually the Mariners would like to separate Paxton and Smyly so the two lefties aren't pitching back-to-back, but initially they like the matchup with Iwakuma at the Angels in what lines up as his second start on Sunday, April 9, which sets Paxton up to pitch the home opener against the Astros on April 10.
Assuming everything stays to plan, Hernandez will make his Safeco debut Friday, April 14, in the first game of a series against the Rangers. With an off-day on April 13, the club could reshuffle its rotation after that to split up the two southpaws.
The Astros have set their rotation, so Seattle will face lefty Dallas Keuchel in the opener, followed by right-handers Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrove.
The boys are back
Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz returned to game action Tuesday after missing five days with a nasty head cold virus. Servais said it's important to get the two back, and he hopes leadoff hitter Jarrod Dyson returns Wednesday after resting a sore right hamstring, but he's focused more on just having everyone lined up for Monday's regular-season opener in Houston.

"I think we know what we have," Servais said. "You'd like to see a little more rhythm as far as your offense coming together. I think we've played pretty well defensively most of the spring. Sure, I'd like to come out and knock everybody's socks off the last 3-4 days, but it's still the Cactus League.
"We joke about it, but does the team that wins the Cactus League ever win the World Series? You want to be playing well and you want your guys to feel good physically and about their swings, and have the pitchers in a good spot. But we'll get the work in and can't wait to get to Houston."
Worth noting
• Utility infielder Shawn O'Malley said he's feeling better and moving around fine a week after his appendectomy, but is waiting for the stitches to fully heal before doctors clear him for baseball activity.

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


@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.