The roster cuts sliced deeper into the Mariners’ camp as Friday morning saw catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Boog Powell and right-handed pitcher Cody Martin optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
All three are candidates to be recalled at some point later in the season.
Zunino, 24, spent much of the last three seasons as the Mariners’ starting catcher, but he is ticketed for a developmental year at Tacoma after compiling a .193/.252/.353 slash in 295 big-league games.
“We were very up-front with Mike in what our plans were,” manager Scott Servais said. “We have not deviated from that. There’s plenty for him to work on.
“There’s quite a bit of separation from where his at-bats are to where I would perceive they should be.”
The Mariners underscored their plans for Zunino in the offseason by signing free-agent Chris Iannetta, a 10-year veteran, to be their starter. They acquired Steve Clevenger and Rob Brantly as backup candidates.
Zunino had two hits Thursday in an eight-run ninth inning against Oakland, but is 3 for 19 overall in nine spring games.
“There’s big-time power there,” Servais said, “but being able to get to the power, and make consistent contact — the contact rate has to improve. Ultimately, it’s his career. It’s up to him to make the adjustments.
“We’ll give him an opportunity to figure it out in the minor leagues and see what happens.”
The moves reduced the Mariners camp roster to 47 players and came a day before the organization’s minor league clubs begin their spring schedules. Tacoma plays Louisville (Reds) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Peoria Sports Complex.
The Mariners acquired Powell, 23, from Tampa Bay in a Nov. 5 trade that also netted right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns. Powell was 4 for 27 in 14 spring games, but always appeared likely to open the season at Tacoma.
“Kind of as advertised in what we were getting in him,” Servais said. “A high-energy player. He’s the guy with the dirtiest uniform, crashes into walls and that other stuff.
“But as much as that young enthusiasm brings, there are some things that need to get better in his game. Some first-step stuff in the outfield; the base-running; where he’s at offensively.
“I certainly think he could be a guy who helps us at some point this year.”
Martin, 26, came to the Mariners in an Oct. 19 waiver claim from Oakland, which acquired him last season in a trade from Atlanta. He spent much of last season in the minors and always seemed bound for the Rainiers rotation.
“The one thing about Cody,” Servais said, “is he can start, and he can relieve. He is projected to go into the rotation in Tacoma. We’ll see how that goes for him.”
Martin had a 7.92 ERA last season in 25 big league games, including two starts, for the Braves and Athletics. He is 15-19 with a 3.66 ERA in 58 Triple-A games over the last three seasons.
Stefen Romero’s push for a roster spot is on hold because of some tightness in his lower back.
“He has a cramp,” Servais said. “It’s a back issue, and it tightened up. He’s OK today (Friday). They got it checked, and everything was cool. He’s going to have an easy day today, but he’s not going to miss any time.”
Romero, 27, is 12 for 25 in 11 spring games and has played his way into competition with Jesus Montero and Dae-Ho Lee for duty as a right-handed-hitting first baseman in a platoon arrangement with Adam Lind.
While Romero wasn’t listed in the early lineup for either of Saturday’s split-squad games, that could change.
“Fingers crossed, yes,” Servais said. “We’ll see how he is later today and (Saturday).”
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush shows encouraging signs in his recovery for biceps and shoulder problems — he reported no lingering soreness Friday after playing long toss on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I going to take (Friday) off and play catch again (Saturday),” he said. “Then I’ll throw a bullpen (workout), maybe on Sunday.”
Furbush experienced no pain earlier this spring when throwing in the bullpen or when pitching in simulated games. The problem was lingering day-after tightness, which prompted the Mariners to pull back on his throwing program.
DE FRATUS RETURNS
Reliever Justin De Fratus is back with the Mariners after agreeing to a minor league deal two days after getting released from his big league contract.
De Fratus, 28, became a free agent once he cleared waivers, and he opted to return to the Mariners. His new deal includes an invitation to big league camp; he even got his old uniform number (25) back.
Servais on Wednesday explained the decision to release him by saying that De Fratus’ “stuff wasn’t quite what it had been.” But Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto each immediately cited a interest in retaining De Fratus.
By releasing De Fratus on Wednesday, the Mariners limited their financial liability to roughly one-sixth (30/183rds) of his $750,000 salary. By re-signing him to a minor league deal, they effectively retained some of the bullpen’s depth at a lower cost.
De Fratus had a 2.39 ERA over 54 appearances in 2014 for Philadelphia before slumping last season to 5.51 in 61 games. He signed Dec. 2 with the Mariners as a free agent.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners