Brad Miller or Chris Taylor at shortstop?
Who you got?
The biggest positional battle this spring in the Seattle Mariners’ camp shapes up as an either/or proposition.
“If we don’t have injuries,” manager Lloyd McClendon said before Thursday’s workout, “I doubt if we can take them both.”
McClendon’s words confirmed what many already suspected after offseason acquisitions reshaped the club’s roster by bolstering depth.
Veterans Willie Bloomquist (who appears healthy) and Rickie Weeks fill the need for backup infielders, while trades to acquire Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano effectively ended thoughts of shifting Miller to outfield duty.
It likely comes down to this: Either Miller or Taylor will be the shortstop, and the other will head to Triple-A Tacoma or be dangled as a trade chip — since the M’s also have Ketel Marte ticketed for Tacoma.
So, again, who you got: Miller or Taylor?
“They both saw significant time last year," McClendon said, “but only one of them can play short as this team shapes up. I like both guys. They both bring a lot to the table.
“I think Chris is probably a little bit ahead of the game defensively, and Brad is probably a little bit ahead of the game offensively. It’s a nice combination. We’ll see what happens.”
KING ON THE HILL
Felix Hernandez’s spring is off to a strong start. So says the King himself after throwing 30 pitches in his first bullpen workout and concluding the session with a full pirouette.
“Pretty good,” he said. “I’m telling you, that was pretty good.”
Hernandez typically delays his first mound workout until he feels completely comfortable after several days of playing catch and running through other spring drills.
“I don’t need to throw a lot of bullpens,” he said. “Two or three, a live BP and I’ll be ready for a game.”
This is a slightly lighter Hernandez, who reported he lost “6 or 7” pounds in his off-season regimen — which begs a question: Why change anything after what might have been the best all-round season of his career?
“Yeah, not bad,” he agreed. “But I look better now.”
This isn’t much of a surprise, either: McClendon said the Mariners have a let’s-see approach with veteran outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who is back with the club after missing last season because of gastrointestinal issues.
“Listen, there are no expectations for Guti,” McClendon said. “We hope that he’s healthy. That he can make it through the camp feeling good about himself and get back to playing baseball.”
Gutierrez, 32, won a Gold Glove in 2010, but he played sparingly from 2011-13 because of various injuries in addition to his ailment. He opted for a comeback after playing 10 games in the Venezuelan Winter League.
The Mariners signed Gutierrez to a minor-league contract Jan. 26 that included an invitation to big-league camp.
“Do we expect him to be the guy he was two years ago, three years ago?” McClendon said. “I doubt it. He’s been off a long time. He needs to ease himself back into things. It’s going to take time.”
The Mariners started their live batting practice workouts, where batters take swings against the pitchers and not just the coaches. The top first-day takeaway: No good swings or hard contact against right-hander Erasmo Ramirez. … McClendon is planning one intrasquad game for Monday — two days before the Cactus League opener against complex co-tenant San Diego. One possible problem: the forecast calls for rain Saturday through Monday in the Phoenix area,