Peoria, Ariz. – The Seattle Mariners are set to reopen their 2012 season Friday in Oakland sporting a new-look 25-man roster unique in the majors with only three outfielders – and three catchers.
On their final day in Arizona on Wednesday, the team optioned left-handed pitcher Charlie Furbush and outfielder Carlos Peguero to the Tacoma Rainiers.
That translated to Rule 5 rookie left-hander Lucas Luetge and Italian third baseman Alex Liddi making the team, which broke camp with three outfielders.
The Three? Ichiro Suzuki, Michael Saunders and Casper Wells are the only listed outfielders on the roster, which means Chone Figgins – the third baseman/utility player – will likely get playing time in left field.
The Mariners are the only team in the big leagues with three outfielders and three catchers (Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero and John Jaso) on their roster.
Among the other surprises: Rookie Erasmo Ramirez making the team as a reliever, giving the Mariners four first-year pitchers (Hisashi Iwakuma, Steve Delabar, Ramirez and Luetge) in the bullpen.
Peguero had a solid spring, batting .294 with five home runs and 13 RBI, and Furbush had a spectacular one, going 1-0 with a 0.86 earned-run average.
The Mariners, however, wanted to keep Luetge, and the only way to do so was to keep him on the 25-man roster all season. Otherwise, Seattle would have to send him back to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Why Liddi over Peguero, especially when the team is already down injured outfielders Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrrez?
In keeping Liddi, the Mariners signaled their desire to give Kyle Seager playing time at third base, which means finding at-bats in the outfield for leadoff hitter Chone Figgins.
Liddi, an Italian who played first base and third this spring, batted .370 in 15 games, driving in 13 runs. That earned the right-handed hitting Liddi the chance to back up Seager, a left-handed batter.
There were other camp surprises, including relief jobs for rookies set up by the in-camp failures of such veterans as Hong-Shih Kuo, Aaron Heilman and Shawn Camp.
Blake Beavan earned a spot in the starting rotation with a marvelous spring but likely would be starting in Tacoma had Iwakuma not struggled and been sent to the bullpen.
Similarly, Saunders and Wells were on the bubble before injuries felled Gutierrez (partially torn pectoral) and Carp (sprained shoulder).
When Carp and Gutierrez are ready to return, which should be later this month, the team will face more decisions.
For now, they’ll take their 1-1 regular-season record, seven rookies and six second-year players into a game that matters on Friday.
The complete 25-man roster:
Pitchers (12): Beavan, Delabar, Felix Hernaqndez, Iwakuma, Brandon League, Kevin Millwood, Hector Noesi, Ramirez, Tom Wilhelmsen, Luetge, George Sherrill and Jason Vargas.
Catchers (3): Jaso, Montero, Olivo.
Infielders (7): Dustin Ackley, Figgins, Munenori Kawasaki, Liddi, Brendan Ryan, Seager, Justin Smoak
Outfielders (3): Saunders, Ichiro, Wells
Disabled list (3): Gutierrez, catcher Adam Moore, Carp.
The Mariners got seven strong innings from Noesi, and Figgins had a pair of triples and three RBI as Seattle beat Colorado, 7-2 – finishing spring training with a 16-9-1 record. Seattle had 12 hits, three by Jaso (.174) and two each by Figgins (.225), Ichiro (.415) and Saunders (.356). Luetge finished the game with a scoreless inning, needing only six pitches. He spring ERA was 2.35.
Seattle (Jason Vargas: 0-0, 1.42 ERA) at Oakland (Brandon McCarthy: 0-0, 1.29), 7:05 p.m., Roots Sports, 710-AM