PEORIA, Ariz. — What was once a near-certainty is now absolute.
Manager Lloyd McClendon previously cited staff ace Felix Hernandez as having a “99.9999 percent” chance of starting the season opener on April 6 against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
Asked Saturday whether that was still the case, McClendon provided new odds: “He’s up to 100 percent.”
It will be Hernandez’s seventh straight, and eighth overall, start in a season opener.
TALENT ON HAND
Rule 5 pick David Rollins had emerged as the favorite for duty as the second bullpen lefty before receiving an 80-game suspension Friday after testing positive for steroids.
So what happens now?
McClendon says the Mariners won’t look for outside help if they opt for a second lefty reliever in addition to Charlie Furbush. McClendon says he is satisfied with the options already on hand.
“If we take a second lefty,” he said, “it will come from within.”
That’s good news for the two candidates still in camp: Tyler Olson and Joe Saunders. It also suggests the Mariners won’t pursue free-agent Joe Beimel as a late possibility.
Beimel held the role last season and compiled a 2.20 ERA in 57 outings. He signed earlier this month with Texas but was released after allowing 14 runs in three innings.
Olson and Saunders are each in camp as non-roster invites, but the Mariners gained an opening on their 40-man roster when Rollins was suspended.
Entering Saturday, Olson had not allowed an earned run in 8 2/3 innings over eight outings. He had also not permitted a walk and only five hits while striking out 11.
Saunders has three clean outings in six appearances but, overall, had allowed nine runs and 12 hits in 6 1/3 innings. He had four strikeouts and five walks.
MILLER STILL OUT
Shortstop Brad Miller, who is still recovering from flu-like symptoms, was the only omission Saturday from what projects as the Mariners’ lineup for the season opener.
“He was dehydrated (Friday),” McClendon said. “I just don’t want to take a chance. Give him another day to recoup. Hopefully, he’ll feel better (on Sunday).”
Willie Bloomquist replaced Miller in the lineup.
The Mariners are likely to make significant trims to their 38-player camp roster within the next day or two. McClendon wants to have his final roster in place several days before the season opener.
“It’s important to, at some point, get your team together and let them bond,” he said. “Let them work together. We’re in the process of trying to do that as well.”
When karaoke was suggested as a bonding experience by one (usually perceptive) broadcast reporter, McClendon responded: “I’m not a karaoke guy.”
(Not a karaoke guy…that might be enough right there, if I get a manager-of-the-year ballot, to lock up my first-place vote.)