PEORIA, Ariz. — First baseman Dae-Ho Lee’s quest to play in the big leagues moved a step closer Sunday morning as the Mariners added him to their 40-man roster.
"Dae-Ho has the history of hitting left-handers," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "I think he’s given us reason to believe in spring training. He’s very prepared. He’s very calm in the batter’s box. I think he’s gotten better every step of the way.
"It’s been a pleasant surprise with the defense and, particularly, the base-running. He runs the bases really smart. His defense has been much better than we anticipated."
The move effectively buys time for the club because Lee’s minor-league contract had an opt-out clause, effective Sunday, that permitted him to become a free agent if not on the 40-man roster.
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But Lee is not guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster that will open the season on April 4 at Texas.
"That’s to be determined," Dipoto said. "There is a good chance of that happening. What we’re confirming today is we’re adding him to the 40-man (roster)."
The Mariners now hold three options on Lee, which means they can send him to the minor leagues at their discretion. Even so, that is unlikely to happen.
If Lee fails to make the 25-man roster, it’s likely the Mariners would allow him to pursue other opportunities by releasing him. He rejected far more lucrative offers in Japan and Korea in order to pursue a big-league opportunity.
The move appears to put Jesus Montero’s future with the club in jeopardy.
Montero was battling Lee and Stefen Romero for duty as a right-handed-hitting complement to first baseman Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter. While Romero has an option remaining, Montero does not.
Club officials remained non-committal on Montero, but his locker in the clubhouse was empty, and he did not participate in Sunday’s workout.
Manager Scott Servais said: "He’s spending a day with his family."
That suggests that Montero is currently on waivers, and the Mariners are waiting to see whether another club claims him. If he clears waivers, he can be sent to the minors, presumably Triple-A Tacoma, on an outright assignment.
PERALTA MAKES CLUB
Veteran reliever Joel Peralta learned Sunday that he’ll be part of the Mariners’ bullpen, although Dipoto said that move won’t become official for a few days.
"We have informed Joel that he is going to make our club," Dipoto said. "That will be more of a technical roster move at a later point, but we made him aware of the situation."
The Mariners faced a Tuesday deadline for informing Peralta of their decision because he qualifies as an Article XX (B) free agent under the labor agreement — a major-league free agent who agrees to a minor-league contract.
Had Peralta, 40, not been informed he would make the club by Tuesday’s deadline, he could have chosen to become a free agent.
"Joel makes a difference in our clubhouse," Dipoto said. "I think Joel is a leader in the bullpen. He also showed physically (capable) — he’s been 90-92 (mph) the entire spring. His split-finger is a weapon.
"He gets the righties and the lefties out. He’s kind of a reverse-splits type. That’s important in a bullpen that is going to start without Charlie Furbush."
The next step for Furbush is what Dipoto terms a non-surgical medical procedure in an effort to eliminate the tightness that lingers in his shoulder after throwing workouts.
"Charlie is presently situating himself to have a medical procedure," Dipoto said. "Not a surgical invasion, but a medical procedure that will, hopefully, help solve some of his discomfort and inability to get out there consistently."
Dipoto did not elaborate on the nature of the medical procedure.
The Mariners previously acknowledged that Furbush will open the season on the disabled list. He missed the final three months of last season because of biceps tendinitis and a small tear in his rotator cuff.
"Our hope is that once we get him out there," Dipoto said, "he stays out there. We’re not in a rush for that to be opening day or April 15. We’d just like it to be sooner than later."
The Mariners also thinned their camp roster by optioning utilityman Shawn O’Malley and right-hander Joe Wieland to Triple-A Tacoma and reassigning righty relievers Casey Coleman and Justin De Fratus to minor-league camp.
Coleman is also heading to Tacoma. Players who are on the 40-man roster must be optioned; those in big-league camp on a minor-league contract can simply be reassigned.
The Mariners re-signed De Fratus, 28, to a minor-league deal on March 18 after releasing him from his major-league deal. The four moves leave 36 players on the camp roster. All clubs must be down to 25 by April 3.
O’Malley, 28, batted .471 (16-for-34) in 21 games but simply didn’t fit on a roster where club officials wanted an accomplished shortstop as their utility infielder.
"He really had a good camp," Servais said. "The one thing we talked to Shawn about was to try to get him more time at shortstop. That’s probably the one position where he’s not quite at the same level as some of the other guys.
"It doesn’t mean he can’t get there. He’s gotten a lot better in the last couple of years. I saw him in Anaheim a couple of years ago, and I think he’s really improved on his game."
The Mariners acquired Wieland, 26, and Coleman, 28, in the off-season. Wieland gave up eight runs and 10 hits in 11 innings over four appearances; Coleman gave up three earned runs and nine hits in 8 2/3 innings in seven games.
The Mariners are looking across the parking lot at the Peoria Sports Complex in their escalating push to acquire another right-handed reliever before they break camp.
***Vincent, 29, had a 2.35 ERA last season in 23 games over four different big-league tours. He spent parts of the last four seasons in the big leagues and compiled a 9-6 record and a 2.63 ERA in 161 games.
***Quackenbush, 27, had a 4.01 ERA last season in 57 games after posting a 2.48 mark over 56 games in 2014.
***Edwards, 28, had a 3.38 ERA last season in 11 games for the Padres after arriving from Texas in a August trade. He also made 11 appearances for the Rangers prior to the trade.
Any such move would, effectively, fill the final opening in the Mariners’ projected seven-man bullpen and push three current candidates — Donn Roach, Blake Parker and Mayckol Guaipe — onto the Tacoma roster.
There could be room on the Mariners’ opening day roster for another right-handed hitter.
Club officials are discussing the possibility of starting the season with an 11-man pitching staff, instead of the usual 12, in order to have another right-handed bat for the three-game series at Texas, which has a lefty-heavy staff.
The likeliest candidate, if that happens, is Romero.
Such a move is feasible because of an open date after the three games in Texas, but the Mariners would likely revert to a 12-man staff prior to their home opener on April 8 against Oakland at Safeco Field.
It was four years ago Monday — March 28, 2012 — that the Mariners opened the season with a 3-1 victory over Oakland at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
Dustin Ackley drove in two runs, and Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-5, which gave him a franchise-record 17 hits in season-opening games.
Look for utilityman Luis Sardinas to get a few innings at first base in the remaining Cactus League games. He played first on Saturday in a minor-league game. One club official said: "He’s already our best defensive first baseman."…If you plan to tune into Root Sports Northwest on Wednesday to catch Felix Hernandez’s last spring start, be there for the 12:10 p.m. start. Hernandez is only scheduled to work two or three innings…the Mariners are also tapering innings for Hisashi Iwakuma and Wade Miley in their last starts…No surprise, but Servais finally confirmed right-hander Taijuan Walker will start the home opener on April 8 against Oakland at Safeco Field. Hernandez, Iwakuma and Miley are slotted for the three games in Texas.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners