PEORIA, Ariz. — With just over a week left before the Mariners break camp, the roster decisions are reaching critical mass in part because of a pair of approaching contract deadlines.
First baseman Dae-Ho Lee can choose to become a free agent Sunday by exercising an opt-out clause in his minor-league deal if not placed on the 40-man roster.
The Mariners face a Tuesday deadline to tell veteran reliever Joel Peralta whether he’ll break camp with the big-league club. If not, he can choose to become a free agent.
Peralta, 40, is an Article XX (B) free agent under the labor agreement — i.e., a major-league free agent in camp on a minor-league contract. As such, he must be informed of his status five days before the season starts.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
There appears little drama surrounding Peralta — particularly in an injury-thinned bullpen. Manager Scott Servias signaled that again recently by dismissing Peralta’s rough outing Wednesday against Oakland.
"It’s a lot of moxie with Joel when he doesn’t have his best stuff," Servais said. "With the moxie, he’s usually able to navigate through the lineup by mixing in the off-speed pitch. And he could not land any off-speed pitches…that happens."
Lee’s situation is less certain, although he seems to be emerging as the likely choice over Jesus Montero and Stefen Romero to serve as the right-handed complement to lefty-hitting Adam Lind at first base.
Regarding Lee, Servais said: "His ability to make adjustments is pretty good. He does a little something every day. (On Thursday), he goes from first to third on a ball where you think, `Ah, he can’t do that.’
"The bunt play later in the game, he got to it pretty easy. There are things like that which have stood out. But, again, you’ve got to hit for what we’re looking for out of that position. You’ve got to be able to swing the bat."
While Lee, 33, hasn’t wowed at the plate, batting just .250 (9-for-36) in 16 games, he has shown soft hands around first base and, as one club official said in echoing Servais: "You look at him, and you go, `hmmm.’"
Plus, Lee’s primary competition, Montero, is batting .237 at 9-for-38 in 21 games.
"(Montero has) struggled," Servais said. "It was good early. It hasn’t been as consistent as of late. It’s still a competition. (Romero) had a little back issue. He was killing it before that happened. He’s definitely still in the mix."
Even so, Romero, 27, always loomed as a long-shot candidate because he has an option remaining. In contrast, Montero, 26, is out of options, which means he can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, and Lee has his opt-out clause.
Lee’s deal includes a $1 million guarantee if he makes the big-league club and can reach $4 million through performance bonuses. He could have made far more by remaining in Japan, where he played for four years after 11 seasons in Korea.
That Japanese opportunity, presumably, would still be available if he opts out of his deal with the Mariners.
If the Mariners choose Lee, they presumably will try to trade Montero before sending him through waivers. If Montero goes unclaimed, he can be sent back to Tacoma for another year on a minor-league contract.
FURBUSH LIKELY TO DL
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush appears increasingly likely to open the season on the disabled list because of ongoing difficulties in recovering from the problems that forced him to miss the final three months of last season.
"I can’t imagine that he would break with us," Servais said. "We need Charlie. There is no question that we need Charlie. But I know he’s not going to be ready for April 4. I’ll wait to hear from others when he is going to be a viable option."
Furbush said he is throwing without pain but continues to experience lingering day-after tightness in his shoulder. He didn’t pitch last season after July 7 because of biceps tendinitis and a small tear in his rotator cuff.
ROACH OPENING EYES
Right-hander Donn Roach continued his late push to win a bullpen job Thursday by pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings in a 10-8 victory over Colorado.
That makes 10 1/3 scoreless innings over his last four outings.
"Eight-for-eight in first-pitch strikes," Servais said. "He turned the whole game around. Some guys pitch their way off the team; some guys pitch their way on the team. Some guys just open your eyes up, and he’s done a lot of good things."
Right-hander Mayckol Guaipe is also emerging as a candidate for the final bullpen spot after following Roach in Thursday’s game by pitching two scoreless innings. He has allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings in his last six appearances.
It was 16 years ago Saturday — March 26, 2000 — that the Kingdome was demolished in less than 20 seconds.
Workers filled 5,800 bored holes with gelatin dynamite and ignited it through 21.6 miles of detonation cord. The Mariners’ home for 22 1/2 years became a mound of rubble over 65 feet high.
Former outfielder Jay Buhner is in camp this week as an alumni coach. He played for the Mariners from 1988-2001 and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2004…catcher Mike Zunino, optioned recently to Tacoma, turned 25 on Friday…former Green Beret Nate Boyer addressed the club in its morning meeting regarding performance-enhancement techniques. Boyer, 35, spent time last summer in the Seahawks’ camp and currently heads Mission 6 Zero, which is comprised of U.S. Special Operations Forces operators.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners