PEORIA, Ariz. — While Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon isn’t yet ready to announce his rotation, it increasingly appears as if the five-man unit is falling into place.
The listed probably starters after Thursday’s split-squad doubleheader:
***Friday vs. Kansas City in Surprise: James Paxton.
***Saturday vs. San Francisco in Peoria: Hisashi Iwakuma.
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***Sunday vs. San Diego in Peoria: J.A. Happ.
***Monday vs. Los Angeles Angels in Peoria: Taijuan Walker.
***Tuesday vs. Cleveland in Goodyear: Felix Hernandez.
***Wednesday vs. Chicago White Sox in Peoria: James Paxton.
Note no planned start in the next cycle for Roenis Elias.
The battle for spots in what projects as a seven-man bullpen might be even tighter than expected. With just more than a week before the Mariners break camp, McClendon sounded a warning.
“One thing I expressed to the guys in that bullpen,” he said, “is that (All-Star closer Fernando) Rodney is etched in stone. Nobody else. Whether you like it or you don’t, it’s just a fact.”
It goes beyond the numbers, too.
For example: Yoervis Medina has allowed just one run and four hits in 8 1/3 innings in six outings prior to Thursday’s split-squad doubleheader. McClendon contends that success is deceptive.
“He hasn’t pitched well to this point in the spring,” McClendon said. “We’ve had a couple of bullpen sessions with him and, hopefully, we’ll see better (Thursday).
“He did a nice job for us last year, but everybody in our bullpen did a nice job.”
The only reliever other than Rodney who can’t be sent directly to the minors is lefty David Rollins, who is bound by Rule 5 statues following his selection last December from Houston.
Everyone else can he optioned or simply reassigned to the minors.
“I think this organization is at a point now,” McClendon said, “where we don’t have to take guys to the big leagues out of necessity. We’re at a point now where we take guys because they’re the best ones to take.
“And there’s a lot of competition. I would say we’ve got nine or 10 legit people for a seven-man bullpen. So decisions are going to be tough.”