PEORIA, Ariz. — Lefty James Paxton will get the first chance to make a first impression when he starts the Mariners’ spring opener Wednesday against complex co-tenant San Diego at Peoria Stadium.
"I’m just focusing on getting ready for the season," he said. "I’m not really focused on going out there and having to do something to make the team. I’m just going to go out there and do what I do. Get myself ready for the season.
"If they want me, they want me."
The man expected to battle Paxton for the final spot in the rotation, right-hander Nathan Karns, is slotted to start Thursday against the Padres.
Manager Scott Servais revealed the rotation’s first cycle prior to Sunday’s workout after consultation with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. The Mariners have 33 Cactus League games prior to an April 4 regular-season opener at Texas.
"It’s all from Mel’s plan to work back from opening day," Servais said. "The key with starters is to get them stretched out and let them build on their pitches and innings."
After Paxton and Karns, plans call for right-hander Taijuan Walker to start Friday against Milwaukee in Maryvale, and lefty Wade Miley to start Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels in Peoria.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is tentatively slotted for Sunday against Texas in Surprise, while right-hander Felix Hernandez, who is operating on his usual delayed program, isn’t likely to start until later in March.
The starters are slotted for two innings or 30-35 pitches on their first cycle.
"We’ll get two innings (out of the starters) and build from there," Servais said. "The relievers are penciled in, but that can change daily. We won’t get too far ahead on that."
The Mariners do have tentative plans for the second pitcher in their first four games: Donn Roach behind Paxton; Joe Wieland behind Karns; Cody Martin behind Walker; and Evan Scribner behind Miley.
Instead of intrasquad games, the Mariners are wrapping up their pre-Cactus League workouts by playing a situational-hitting game over two days.
The roster was divided into two teams one captained by right fielder Nelson Cruz and the other by second baseman Robinson Cano. And the trash talk started early and continued through the day.
"It will be competitive," Servais said. "We’ll go back-to-back days of that, and the culmination of the score from each day will determine the winner. The losers will be responsible for…something. We haven’t quite determined that yet."
The teams were awarded or penalized points for successful at-bats with runners on second in the first inning, and runners at first and third in the second inning. Cano’s team ended the first day with an 85-73 lead.
"I believe in my team," Cruz declared. "We’re going to take a break and come back strong tomorrow."
Cruz’s team is Leonys Martin, Luis Sardinas, Boog Powell, Mike Baxter, Dario Pizzano, Seth Smith, Chris Taylor, Marcus Littlewood, Dae-Ho Lee, Steve Lerud, Franklin Gutierrez, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Iannetta and Benji Gonzalez.
Cano’s team: Nori Aoki, Ketel Marte, Adam Lind, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino, Shawn O’Malley, Ed Lucas, Steve Clevenger, Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, Steven Baron, Tyler Smith and Dan Robertson.
Because Cano’s team has one fewer player, one player got a second at-bat each inning: Aoki got two at-bats in the first, and Cano got two at-bats in the second inning.
Servais also revealed a possible caveat.
"The teams will stay the same," he said, "unless they decide to trade guys overnight. We’ve discussed they may be able to trade one player after the first day."
The Mariners are still awaiting the final paperwork on center fielder Guillermo Heredia, a Cuban defector whom they signed last week to a major-league contract.
Heredia, 25, spent time Saturday in the clubhouse and already has a locker with all the requisite club gear, including a No. 64 uniform jersey.
Once Heredia’s deal becomes official, the Mariners are expected to clear space for him on their 40-man roster by placing injured catcher Jesus Sucre on the 60-day disabled list. Sucre suffered a broken right leg in January.