PEORIA, Ariz. — Reliever Dominic Leone belatedly, and somewhat unexpectedly, paid the price Friday for a disappointing spring when he was optioned by the Mariners to Triple-A Tacoma.
Club officials pulled a switch just three days prior to the season opener by opting to recall right-hander Carson Smith after clearing a regulatory hurdle by placing lefty Edgar Olmos on the disabled list.
“One of the toughest days I’ve had,” Leone admitted. “Last year was different, I kind of came in not expecting anything, and when they optioned me down it was disappointing, but not like this, not after the season I had.
“I understand I didn’t have the greatest of springs. I always have things I need to work on. But it’s tough when it kind of blindsides you like that.”
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Leone appeared to win the final right-handed bullpen spot last Sunday when the Mariners optioned Smith to the Rainiers, but Leone struggled again in Wednesday’s 12-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“He just wasn’t throwing very well,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s got to get some things straightened out. In good conscience, I just couldn’t take him north with me.”
Leone gave up 13 runs (10 earned) and 17 hits in seven innings over nine appearances. He gave up four runs in just two-thirds of an inning Wednesday against the White Sox.
“Right now everything is up in the zone,” he said. “But you know, I feel good. I feel like I’m ready to get back to what I did last year.
“After the game the other night, I went home and looked at everything, looked at my mechanics, and saw really what I needed to fix. I was coming in ready to get after it today and get back to what I’m used to doing.
“I guess I will take the day off and come back at it (on Saturday).”
The Mariners had to jump through some legal hoops to make the move because optioned players must remain in the minors for 10 days before getting recalled unless they replace an injured player.
Accordingly, Smith technically replaced Olmos, who will placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 30. Olmos has not pitched all spring because of a shoulder injury.
Smith allowed four runs and nine hits in eight innings in nine games prior to be sent to Tacoma. He pitched a scoreless inning Thursday night for Tacoma against El Paso (San Diego).
ROTATION SET (MOSTLY)
McClendon finally confirmed what has long appeared obvious by saying lefty James Paxton and right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will follow ace right-hander Felix Hernandez in the rotation.
But McClendon says he hasn’t decided on the final two spots between lefty J.A. Happ and right-hander Taijuan Walker.
Happ is currently lined up for the fourth spot, but McClendon said he might shift to Walker and have Happ at No. 56.
McClendon also said he is likely to roll the five-man unit through any open dates that occur early in the season — i.e., nobody will be skipped; pitchers will simply get an additional day of rest.
PLANS FOR BEIMEL
Lefty reliever Joe Beimel is expected to remain in extended spring training before reporting to Tacoma after rejoining the organization Thursday by signing a minor-league deal.
“It’s been a while since he’s thrown,” McClendon said, “so we’ve got to get him back in shape. He’ll report to Triple-A and compete, and if he’s pitching well, and there’s a need, there’s a chance we may bring him (up).”
Beimel, 37, compiled a 2.20 ERA last season in 56 games for the Mariners but became a free agent when the two sides couldn’t reach agreement on a new contract.
Texas signed Beimel on March 6 to a non-guaranteed, one-year deal for $1.5 million but released him on March 23 after he allowed 14 runs and 13 hits in three innings over four appearances.