The Seattle Mariners had 28 men on their active roster coming back from the Japan Opening Series, meaning the real Opening Day roster was still three cuts away. GM Jack Zduriencik and company got one step closer today, optioning reliever Shawn Kelley to AAA Tacoma.
Kelley, 27, was seen as one of the virtual locks for the 'pen given his track record of success relative to his competitors, but if Kelley isn't back to where he needs to be after missing half of the 2010 season and most of the 2011 season recovering from elbow surgery, then there's no good reason in the short- or long-term to give him a roster spot over someone like Steve Delabar.
But since Kelley is such a likable, approachable and outgoing guy, it's hard not to be a little disappointed by the move. Even Zduriencik seemed to inject more emotion into his comments than was warranted by the demotion of a so-so middle reliever.
From MLB.com's Greg Johns:
“You have to make decisions,” Zduriencik said. “No one finishes the season with 12 pitchers. I guarantee you we’re going to go down and bring him up at some point in time if he stays healthy and continues to compete down there. It’s just the way it is. Someone is going to have to go and in this case it’s Shawn. But it’s not an indication of anything except that he has an option left and if he produces, he’ll be back. It’s up to him.
“Shawn is a good kid. He understands. Players understand how it goes. The door is wide open to come back if he produces.”
I hope to see Kelley again soon, but in the mean time I'm happy to see more explosive Delabar fastballs.
In related news, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi heard that Charlie Furbush would also be optioned to AAA.
His impressive Spring Training aside, this is a move that I believe most were expecting. (Not that that means much, considering few would have predicted Shawn Camp's release or Kelley's demotion.) (By the way, Camp signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and seems like a good bet to make their bullpen.) The Mariners have no reason not to give Rule 5 pick Lucas Luetge at this point, nor would it make sense for them to carry two lefties in addition to George Sherrill.
Furbush will hopefully slot into Tacoma's rotation, though the Mariners could opt to develop him strictly as a reliever going forward. Personally, I think they owe it to themselves to keep him in the rotation because, ya know... Doug FIster.
After Furbush, Alex Liddi is the popular pick to be the final cut. This would leave the following bullpen:
CL Brandon League
SU Tom Wilhelmsen
SU George Sherrill
MR Steve Delabar
MR Lucas Luetge
MR/LR Hisashi Iwakuma
LR Erasmo Ramirez
I don't expect anything different, but neither will I be shocked if the team decides to keep Liddi's bat around as long as Mike Carp is on the disabled list, optioning Ramirez in the interim.