Manager Scott Servais offered up a new wrinkle Tuesday in the Mariners’ potential roster mix for the start of the regular season.
It could include eight relievers — “could” is the key word.
“We’ve discussed all kinds of different options in how you want to break and who you play on that first road trip,” Servais said. “How we match up with their lineups. That will be a decision we’ll make right at the end of camp.”
The Mariners open the season with four games at Houston and then play three against the Angels in Anaheim before opening their home schedule with a nine-game run against Houston, Texas and Miami.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The bullpen is already in flux because of Steve Cishek’s slow recovery from offseason hip surgery and Shae Simmons now battling through a muscle strain in his forearm.
Servais effectively confirmed Monday that Cishek will start the season on the disabled list, while Simmons is being shut down for several days until his forearm soreness dissipates.
That leaves Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner as the top right-handed setup relievers for closer Edwin Diaz. Lefty Marc Rzepczynski will also see late-inning duty in match-up situations.
“(Dan) Altavilla will be in the mix there,” Servais said. “We’ve got some competition now. ... Casey Fien works into that mix as well. It’ll come down to the end of camp.”
WBC’S ONGOING IMPACT
Outfielder Tyler O’Neill returned to camp Tuesday following Canada’s elimination in the World Baseball Classic. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (Mexico) is also on his way back.
But the Mariners no longer appear certain about the return of lefty Drew Smyly, whose original obligation to the United States was believed to be a single appearance.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Servais admitted. “At this point, I’m done predicting anything. Rosters change, and plans change daily. By the inning, if you watch some of these games.
“We’re not the only team affected. The competitive nature of people, you want to play these guys. You want to play the best players. You want to win these games. Sometimes that takes over.”
Smyly is scheduled to start Wednesday against Venezuela and teammate Felix Hernandez at Petco Park in San Diego.
“That will be interesting,” Servais said. “We will be watching. We’ll see how that goes.”
The Mariners’ two-three-four hitters are also taking part in the four-team, second-round bracket this week in San Diego along with their closer.
Shortstop Jean Segura, second baseman Robinson Cano and designated hitter Nelson Cruz are playing for the Dominican Republic, the tournament favorite and defending champion. Diaz is pitching for Puerto Rico.
Two teams from the San Diego bracket will advance to the tournament semifinals next week at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The championship game is March 22.
First baseman Danny Valencia started Monday’s game in right field, which is where he is likely to play whenever he draws outfield duty. The regular right fielder, Mitch Haniger, shifted to left field.
Servais said Valencia is “more comfortable” in right field. Valencia started 36 games last season for Oakland in right field but only one in left field.
“For a guy who’s not out there that often,” Servais said, “I want to keep him as comfortable as I can.”
There is no hesitation in shifting Haniger to left to accommodate Valencia or Cruz, who is also slotted for some time in right field.
“(Haniger) can go anywhere,” Servais said. “I think you saw his jumps (Monday) in left field. Very good. He made the plays he’s supposed to make. He’s very comfortable anywhere he’s at.”
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners