In case you were unaware, Major League Baseball has allowed the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics some abnormal roster flexibility for the whacky situation that is leaving Spring Training two weeks early, traveling 6000 miles, playing two exhibition games in Japan, playing two regular season games in Japan, traveling 6000 miles, and playing several Cactus League games before diving back into the regular season at Oakland.
The first move was to come up with a 30-man travel roster. These 30 players were eligible to play in the exhibition games in Japan. The Mariners got down to 30 players last week by clearing Cesar Jimenez through waivers and leaving behind CIF/COF Vinnie Catricala, COF Mike Wilson, INF Luis Rodriguez, C Jesus Sucre, C Adam Moore, CF Franklin Gutierrez and RHSP Kevin Millwood.
At that point we could safely assume that those first five wouldn't be making the Opening Day roster. In my mind, Rodriguez was the only one with a decent shot, and I may have been in the minority with that opinion. Millwood, however, had already been named a rotation member but stayed in Arizona simply because he wasn't scheduled to pitch on the trip.
The next two steps for the Mariners and A's were to designate a 28-man roster -- with all 28 on the 40-man roster -- and to "deactivate" three players to get the roster to the regulation 25. This allowed the two teams to play under basic baseball rules while also being given some wiggle room for having to pare down their roster a week before any other team.
This was all a little difficult to wrap the mind around, but thankfully the Mariners completed their final roster to-dos with a series of moves Monday night. COF Carlos Peguero and RHRP Chance Ruffin were optioned to AAA Tacoma and C Guillermo Quiroz was re-assigned to minor league camp. INF Munenori Kawasaki, RHP Erasmo Ramirez and Millwood were selected from the minors and given Major League contracts.
Millwood, who is not in Japan; RHSP Hector Noesi, who started the first exhibition game in Japan; and RHRP Hisashi Iwakuma, who started the second, were then deactivated.
The end result is an Opening Day roster that, under these abnormal circumstances, will see another cut before game three.
C Miguel Olivo
1B Justin Smoak (B)
2B Dustin Ackley (L)
3B/UT Chone Figgins (B)
SS Brendan Ryan
LF/1B Mike Carp (L)
OF Michael Saunders (L)
RF Ichiro Suzuki (L)
DH/C Jesus Montero
C/1B John Jaso (L)
INF Munenori Kawasaki (L)
INF Kyle Seager (L)
OF Casper Wells
CIF Alex Liddi
RHSP Felix Hernandez
LHSP Jason Vargas
RHSP Hector Noesi (deactivated)
RHSP Blake Beavan
RHSP Kevin Millwood (deactivated)
RHRP Brandon League
RHRP Tom Wilhelmsen
LHRP George Sherrill
RHRP Shawn Kelley
LHRP Lucas Luetge
RHRP Steve Delabar
RHRP Hisashi Iwakuma (deactivated)
RHRP Erasmo Ramirez
LHRP Charlie Furbush
Liddi seems to be the odd man out on the bench, although there may yet have a shot to make the team over Seager. That would be an upset, but it's not unreasonable that manager Eric Wedge could want more righty-lefty balance and/or power on his bench. I still expect Liddi to be optioned, leaving the remaining questions in the bullpen.
The Mariners will shed two players from the 'pen. There are currently three lefties, so we can assume that one of them is a goner, most likely Furbush. At this point, the Mariners might as well see what they have in Rule 5 pick Luetge, while Furbush is best off being sent to Tacoma to continue developing as a starter.
Assuming Iwakuma is healthy -- and maybe he's not -- that leaves Delabar and Ramirez duking it out. From where I sit, it makes more sense for the Mariners to send Ramirez down to continue working out of Tacoma's rotation, but it's hard to imagine them doing that after adding him to the roster. Otherwise, why wouldn't they have just stuck it out with Ruffin for two games?
On the other hand, having Ramirez up for two days doesn't really hurt him long-term. They burn an option, but he was probably going to use that option at some point during the season anyway as the team's sixth or seventh starter. They burn a little bit of service time, but not enough to make much of a difference, and Ramirez isn't the star-level talent that is going to make the Mariners pay for shortsightedness.
The Mariners have options, but at this point I'd expect Liddi, Furbush and Delabar to be handed tickets to Tacoma once they land back in Arizona.
Many of us thought the Mariner roster would be easy to predict coming into Spring Training. That proved to be true for the most part, but an impressive spring from Beavan and a lackluster one from Iwakuma led to the first surprise, while one or more of Luegte, Furbush, Ramirez and Liddi have a chance to beat their pre-Spring Training odds.