ARLINGTON, Texas — Monday marks mission accomplished for Dae-Ho Lee, who will realize his dream of playing on a big-league club after amassing a long list of accomplishments over the last 15 years in Korea and Japan.
"I feel very happy, but this has just started," he said Sunday prior to the Mariners’ workout at Globe Life Park. "I want to show everything that I have.
"Even though I’ve played for a long time, it feels like I just got promoted from Korea to the major leagues."
Lee learned last week that he had made the club, but it’s starting to sink in as he sits in front of his locker in the visitor’s clubhouse and has a new but familiar number: 10. He wore No. 56 in spring training.
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"I’ve played the last 16 years in the Korean league and Japan with that number," he said. "And I like No. 10."
Lee, 33, is slotted for platoon duty at first base; he’ll play primarily against left-handed starters, although manager Scott Servais said Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter, will start Monday’s season opener against Texas lefty Cole Hamels.
"We’re going to see a lot of left-handed pitching," Servais said. "Four of our first six are against lefties. So (Lind) will get some starts against lefties.
"But once you get into the normal flow of the season, and you’re not getting quite that many (left-handed opponents), then you’ll probably see a little more of a straight platoon."
Lee is scheduled to start Tuesday, in the season’s second game, against Rangers left-hander Martin Perez.
"Obviously, the bat will tell the story here," Servais said. "Is (Lee) going to be able to handle the left-handed pitching in this league, which is pretty good — especially in our division? We’ll see. He’s going to get plenty of opportunity."
Club officials still aren’t completely convinced Lee can handle big-league pitching. While he batted .264 in 24 spring games, he has just one homer and seven RBIs in 53 at-bats. His slugging percentage was just .396.
"It wasn’t like he just lit it up all spring, obviously," Servais noted. "The one thing about Dae-Ho as you looked throughout the spring, just as you’d think things were going to fall apart, he did something to keep you interested.
"He’d look not-so good on the first couple of strikes, and then they’d hang a breaking ball, and he knocks the crap out of it. His ability to make adjustments was pretty good throughout the course of an at-bat.
"There will be adjustments that will need to be made as the season goes on for him to survive and be part of what we’re doing here."
The Mariners, by keeping Lee, simply just gave him more time to prove himself. He is on a standard contract, which means he can be optioned to the minors at any point. Whether he would accept such a demotion is an open question.
For now, though, opportunity beckons — the cherished opportunity for Lee to prove he can play in the big leagues.
"I was a veteran before," he admitted, "but I’m a rookie now."
ROSTER OFFICIALLY SET
Although they waited almost until Sunday’s deadline to make it official, the Mariners offered no late surprises in setting their 25-man active roster for the regular season.
***Catcher Rob Brantly was designated for assignment, which means the club chose Steve Clevenger as its backup to Chris Iannetta. The Mariners now have 10 days in which to reach a resolution on Brantly.
While they could trade or release him, the Mariners want to retain Brantly and are likely to send him through waivers in the hope that he goes unclaimed. If so, he can then be sent to the minors.
***By designating Brantly for assignment, the Mariners cleared a space on their 40-man roster for reliever Joel Peralta, who had previously been told he would make the club.
***Two relievers were placed on the 15-day disabled list: left-hander Charlie Furbush and right-hander Evan Scribner. Neither pitched during spring training.
Furbush has been undergoing a series of blood injections — Regenokine therapy — in hopes of accelerating the healing process in his ailing left shoulder. While he is expected to begin throwing by mid-April, he isn’t expected to be game-ready for several months.
Scribner is recovering from a strained latissimus dorsi muscle in his back that proved more severe than initially believed. He isn’t expected to return until mid-May at the earliest.
***Four players were reassigned to minor-league camp and will open the season at Triple-A Tacoma: first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro, outfielder Daniel Robertson and right-handed pitchers Donn Roach and Blake Parker.
Tacoma opens its 144-game schedule Thursday against Albuquerque (Rockies) at Cheney Stadium.
Major League Baseball’s deadline for clubs to set their rosters for opening day was 9 a.m. Pacific time Sunday, but the Mariners signaled their intention through their traveling party when they broke camp after Saturday’s game in Arizona.
The Mariners open the season at 1:10 p.m. Pacific time Monday against Texas at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Right-hander Felix Hernandez will start against Rangers lefty Cole Hamels.
The club’s 25-man roster:
Rotation (5): Hernandez, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Taijuan Walker and RHP Nathan Karns.
Bullpen (7): RHP Steve Cishek (closer), RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Tony Zych, RHP Joel Peralta, RHP Nick Vincent, LHP Vidal Nuno and LHP Mike Montgomery.
Catchers (2): Iannetta and Clevenger.
Infielders (6): 1B Adam Lind, 1B Dae-Ho Lee, 2B Robinson Cano, SS Ketel Marte, 3B Kyle Seager and UTL Luis Sardinas.
Outfielders (5): LF Nori Aoki, CF Leonys Martin, RF Seth Smith, RF Franklin Gutierrez and DH Nelson Cruz.
Lee isn’t the only player getting a new number.
Just-acquired reliever Nick Vincent is switching to No. 50, which he wore with San Diego, after wearing No. 83 over the previous few days. No. 50 came available when the Mariners reassigned pitcher Blake Parker to the minors.
Lee was able to switch to No. 10 after it became available when the Mariners lost first baseman Jesus Montero to Toronto last week in a waiver claim.
Veteran reliever Joel Peralta opted to keep No. 62 when added to the roster.
It was two years ago Monday — April 4, 2014 — that the Mariners’ game at Oakland was rained out because the O.co Coliseum grounds crew didn’t cover the field prior to an overnight rain storm.
It was the Mariners’ first rainout in Oakland since April 10, 1982.
The Mariners enter their 40th season with an all-time record of 2,898-3,295. Their 14-year postseason drought in the longest in baseball…Felix Hernandez is making his ninth start in a season opener, including his eighth consecutive start. He is 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA in his previous eight starts in season openers…the Mariners are opening on the road for the seventh time in eight years…the Mariners have a nine-game winning streak in season openers, which matches the American League record set by the St. Louis Browns from 1937-45…the Mariners are 24-15 overall in season openers…Scott Servias is the 20th manager in Mariners history. That total includes three interim managers…The Mariners are 1-1 in previous openers against the Rangers, but the two previous games (1992 and 2008) were in Seattle. This is the first time the Mariners have opened the season in the state of Texas.
The Mariners open their 40th season with a three-games series against the Texas Rangers, the reigning division champions, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. All three games can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Monday: right-hander Felix Hernandez (18-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 2015) vs. Texas lefty Cole Hamels (13-8, 3.65 with Texas and Philadelphia), at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time.
***Tuesday: right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5, 3.54) vs. Texas lefty Martin Perez (3-6, 4.46), at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time.
***Wednesday: left-hander Wade Miley (11-11, 4.46 with Boston) vs. Texas right-hander Colby Lewis (17-9, 4.66), at 11:05 a.m. Pacific time.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
Starting lineups for Monday’s game
LF Nori Aoki
SS Ketel Marte
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nelson Cruz
3B Kyle Seager
DH Franklin Gutierrez
1B Adam Lind
C Chris Iannetta
CF Leonys Martin
P Felix Hernandez
CF Delino DeShields
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Prince Fielder
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Mitch Moreland
LF Ian Desmond
2B Rougned Odor
SS Elvis Andrus
C Robinson Chirinos
P Cole Hamels