Taijuan Walker’s spot in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation is all but official, and Tyler Olson’s remarkable spring rise to win a bullpen job should be confirmed within the next few days.
The trade Tuesday night that sent right-hander Erasmo Ramirez to Tampa Bay for lefty Mike Montgomery cleared the way for the Mariners to set their 25-man roster for the regular season.
“Write what you see,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, gesturing to a board in his office during his Wednesday morning news briefing. “Take a look at the board.”
The board had 25 names. Walker and Olson were both on it.
“Write what you see,” McClendon repeated. “Those are my words. I like my team.”
Walker has long been lined up for the fifth spot in a balanced rotation that begins with ace right-hander Felix Hernandez and slots lefty James Paxton, righty Hisashi Iwakuma and lefty J.A. Happ in front of Walker.
“Obviously, it feels good,” Walker said when told of McClendon’s comments. “But it pretty much starts all over again. Still competing.
“I’ve got to go out there every day and compete because (Roenis) Elias is going to be down there (at Triple-A Tacoma) waiting to come up the moment I slack off. I’ve got to make sure I stay focused.”
Walker, 22, won the final spot over Elias and Ramirez through a dominant spring performance: one run and nine hits in 25 innings over five starts with 24 strikeouts and four walks.
“I saw all (everything necessary) on a consistent basis,” McClendon said, “and I didn’t just see them in spring training. I saw them in September.”
Elias was optioned Sunday to Tacoma.
Walker is scheduled to start the spring finale Saturday against Colorado in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Mariners will fly to Seattle after that game in preparation for their season opener at 1:10 p.m. Monday against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mariners are still withholding confirmation that Olson will break camp with the big-league club after he didn’t allow an earned run in 122/3 innings over 10 spring outings.
That’s not unusual.
Olson, 25, must first be added to the 40-man roster. Clubs often don’t make such moves in spring until just before the deadline for setting their 25-man roster.
That deadline is noon Sunday.
The delay protects the club in the event the player suffers an injury late in camp. Once on the 40-man roster, he would be paid a major league salary while on the disabled list and also accrue major-league service time.
Even so, there seems little doubt that Olson will make the club.
“He’s shown a lot of poise,” McClendon said, “and the ability to get left-handers and right-handers out. Holds runners. Works fast. Throws strikes. Fields his position. He’s done a great job.”
Olson is a Spokane native whom the Mariners selected out of Gonzaga in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. He spent most of last season at Double-A Jackson, where he was 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 22 starts.
“Nothing is, obviously, official,” Olson said, “but I think I’ve put myself in a good position. I’ve been going out there and showing that I can compete, be put in situations and get out of them.”
The Mariners are expected to open the season with two players on the 15-day disabled list: shortstop Chris Taylor and left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos.
Taylor suffered a broken bone in his right wrist on March 13 when hit by a foul ball on an inside pitch. He was expected to miss four to six weeks, but he is already taking part in limited on-field workouts.
Olmos was returned March 5 from Texas when Major League Baseball voided the Rangers’ waiver claim after his precamp physical revealed a shoulder injury. He has yet to pitch in a spring game.
Clubs are permitted to backdate time on the disabled list by up to five days prior to the start of the season. That means Taylor or Olmos could be eligible to return as soon as the April 17 game against the Rangers at Safeco Field.
The Mariners were in a tough spot with Ramirez, who was out of options and not positioned to make the big-league club. That meant they either had to trade him, release him or risk losing him in a waiver claim.
Montgomery, 25, was regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the years following his selection by Kansas City with the 36th overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Baseball America listed him among the top 40 prospects for three consecutive seasons from 2010-12, but he rarely did more than offer a glimpse of that potential before a December 2012 trade sent him to Tampa Bay.
Unlike Ramirez, Montgomery still has an option remaining and is expected to open the season at Tacoma. He was 10-5 with a 4.29 ERA last season in 25 starts at Triple-A Durham.
It’s subject to change, but here are the projected pitching matchups for the Mariners’ first three series: