PEORIA, Ariz. — Reality hit Friday in Mariners’ camp when the club moved 11 players, including outfielders James Jones and Stefen Romero, shifted their gear to the minor-league clubhouse.
None of the moves were notably unexpected, although the Mariners tellingly trimmed their candidates for the second lefty in their bullpen by dispatching Lucas Luetge and Rafael Perez.
“It’s a combination of two things,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “No. 1, the innings, the at-bats and the playing time is not here for them anymore.
“The second part is they need to go get ready for a season. They’ve got to get at-bats and start playing and build their innings up, get ready to pitch. It’s just that time of the year.”
The Mariners optioned six players on the 40-man roster optioned to Triple-A Tacoma: Jones, Romero, Luetge, catcher John Hicks, first baseman Jesus Montero and shortstop Ketel Marte.
Five players in camp as non-roster invites were reassigned to minor-league camp: Perez, right-hander Justin Germano, veteran outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and infielders D.J. Peterson and Pat Kivlehan.
The moves leave 39 players in big-league camp, including nine non-roster invites. All clubs must trim their rosters to 25 players by opening day.
Gutierrez, 32, is attempting to re-start his career after missing all of last season because of gastrointestinal issues, but his comeback stalled because of a sore right groin. He hasn’t played since March 7.
“I think it’s quite simple,” McClendon said. “He just hasn’t been able to get out on the field. And that playing time is not there anymore.”
Jones and Romero spent extensive time last season in the big leagues but came to camp with little chance to retain a roster spot after the club’s winter moves netted veterans Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks.
“When you become good,” McClendon said, “it becomes very difficult to make a club. The options become tougher. I think that was the case with both of these young men.
“It’s not so much what they did or didn’t do; it’s just the type of talent we’ve acquired that they’re pushed back to Triple-A.”
Similarly, McClendon said Montero simply needs to get at-bats — but warned there was no guarantee of playing time at Tacoma.
“One thing I told him,” McClendon said, “is the competition at Triple-A is going to be tough. You’ve got to go and compete for at-bats. I think he’s prepared to do that.”
The moves with Luetge and Perez leave David Rollins, Tyler Olson and Joe Saunders as the primary candidates for duty as the bullpen’s second left-hander.
Rollins rates an edge because of circumstances: He is a Rule 5 pick from Houston, which means he can’t be sent to the minors this season unless he clears waivers and the Astros decline to pay a $25,000 reacquisition fee.
Olson and Saunders are in camp as non-roster invites and can simply be reassigned to minor-league camp at any point.
“I’ve said I’d like to have to lefties,” McClendon hedged. “That doesn’t mean that I’m locked in to taking two lefties. I think everything is still open on that.”
Even so, he also reiterated his previous statement that competition for the spot has been sufficient to merit keeping a second lefty reliever in addition to Charlie Furbush.
“I haven’t changed my mind on that,” McClendon said. “They’ve all been impressive. If they continue to throw well, we’ll see what happens.”
Olson and Rollins have been among the best pitchers in camp. Olson has yet to allow a run in seven innings over five appearances, while Rollins has allowed one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Saunders struggled in his first two appearances but pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox in his last outing.
MARINERS CAMP ROSTER (39)
* — indicates non-roster invite
Right-handed pitchers (13): Kevin Correia*, Danny Farquhar, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Dominic Leone, Mark Lowe*, Yoervis Medina, Jordan Pries*, Erasmo Ramirez, Fernando Rodney, Carson Smith, Taijuan Walker and Tom Wilhelmsen.
Left-handed pitchers (8): Roenis Elias, Charlie Furbush, J.A. Happ, Edgar Olmos, Tyler Olson*, James Paxton, David Rollins and Joe Saunders*.
Catchers (3): John Baker*, Jesus Sucre and Mike Zunino.
Infielders (8): Willie Bloomquist, Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Shawn O'Malley*, Carlos Rivero*, Kyle Seager and Chris Taylor.
Outfielders (7): Dustin Ackley, Endy Chavez*, Nelson Cruz, Austin Jackson, Justin Ruggiano, Seth Smith and Rickie Weeks.