Six days until the Seattle Mariners finish up the first part of their Arizona spring and fly to Japan with 30 players.
By March 28, they’ll be down to their opening day roster of 25.
Today, they’ve got 47 bodies still in camp. How tough will it be to carve that number down?
Not very. We can come pretty close right now – and here it is:
Catcher (3):Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero, John Jaso.
Infield (6):Justin Smoak 1B, Dustin Ackley 2B, Chone Figgins 3B, Brendan Ryan SS, Munenori Kawasaki and Kyle Seager, reserves.
Outfield (3):Mike Carp LF, Michael Saunders CF, Ichiro Suzuki RF,
Rotation (4): Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Hisashi Iwakuma.
Bullpen (6): Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, George Sherrill, Steve Delabar, Charlie Furbush, Shawn Kelley
That’s 22 players who have, as of today, earned a spot on the opening day roster.
The bench has room for another player, and with Figgins able to spell Saunders in center – it comes down to how much stock you put in spring numbers.
Outfielder Casper Wells is the best defensive choice, but he has batted .185. Do you take a chance with Carlos Peguero (.310) or Mike Wilson (364)?
Probably not. The Mariners don’t need a third extra infielder like Luis Rodriguez, and youngsters like Vinnie Catricala (.364) and Alex Liddi (.389) need to play regularly, not sit.
The final reserve spot: Wells.
Now the last few spots on the pitching staff. Blake Beavan has pitched well enough to be the fifth starter, but Kevin Millwood has shown he’s a veteran presence capable of – as he did Wednesday night – getting three double play ground balls in four innings.
In truth, both have out-pitched free agent right-hander Iwakuma, but it’s tough seeing the Mariners sending him out, or losing Millwood. So figure Millwood sticks, Beavan heads for Tacoma despite a marvelous spring.
That leaves one or two spots open in the bullpen, probably a long reliever: Aaron Heilman was brought in on a minor league deal to fill that role. Veteran Shawn Camp might take one spot from a younger pitcher, but Hong-Chih Kuo hasn’t had a 1-2-3 inning in camp.
Rookie Erasmo Ramirez would be the dark horse to win the last job.
Bottom line: The pitching staff could go with young, strong arms or choose veterans – Camp, Heilman or Millwood.
Boiling down that 47 man roster to 25 comes down to guesswork for the final three or four spots, simply because you can’t be certain which way manager Eric Wedge and his staff will lean.
On some of these decisions, it will come down to just that: the feel of the roster to the men who will try to win games that matter with it.