Cust puts on power show; bullpen questions continue

CustBat.JPGJack Cust swung a big bat Saturday with two home runs against the Rangers. (Greg Johns file photo/

Manager Eric Wedge was hoping to learn some things about his bullpen Saturday against the Rangers, running out six candidates who are fighting for relief roles in the rapidly approaching regular season.

Not sure exactly what the Mariners discovered there, other than that Fabio Castro would have been a lot more effective — or fortunate — if he’d only been asked to go one inning instead of two after the Rangers rapped him around in the second frame.

Don’t think I’ve ever seen an inning where each outfielder — Michael Saunders, Ryan Langerhans and Franklin Gutierrez — each laid out for a full-out diving catch and came up with nothing but grass stains for their effort.

Then in the same game, the Mariners came back to hit three home runs in a row on back-to-back-to-back jacks by Adam Kennedy, Mike Wilson and Jack Cust against Texas reliever Darren O’Day in a five-pitch sequence.

The Mariners haven’t hit three straight home runs since 2004 in a regular-season game against the Royals on Aug. 27, 2004 when Miguel Olivo, Jose Lopez and Hiram Bocachica managed the feat against Zach Greinke.

So, yeah,it was a weird day … and one where the ball was carrying out to center field in Surprise much the way it does to right field in Arlington.

Cust took advantage with two no-doubt blasts in the eighth and 10th innings in what turned into a 9-8 win for the Mariners.

Wedge was pleased to see Cust drive two balls to the slightly opposite field as he raised his Cactus League total to three home runs with a 3-for-5 day that puts his batting average at .275.

“Good to see the direction they went, too,” Wedge said. “Both went to center field or a little bit left of center. That’s as important as anything. Obviously he squared ’em up and hit ’em a ton, but it was nice to see where they ended up.”

Where the bullpen ends up might be a bigger question for this club. Chris Ray had a nice inning and continues looking like a legitimate late-inning guy … and maybe even a closer option if Brandon League continues to struggle.

Royce Ring got in trouble — and then got out of it with some nice pitching against a pair of left-handers — reminding that he’s best suited for a situational lefty role.

There are questions elsewhere, but it’s looking more and more like David Pauley — who has no options left — is a likely right-handed long man and Josh Lueke the one young survivor with Dan Cortes having been sent down last week.

Cesar Jimenez also is out of options, so he’ll be a tough decision if he shows anything in the final two weeks. Aaron Laffey is another lefty contender and a likelier survivor, but he does have an option.

Complicating matters is the non-roster situation, where the club is going to have to clear spots for a handful of guys who aren’t currently on the 40-man … Adam Kennedy, possibly Ryan Langerhans, possibly Josh Bard if Miguel Olivo isn’t ready and several relievers (Ray, Castro, Ring, Jamey Wright, Justin Miller and Denny Bautista are all non-roster contenders).

Waiving Garrett Olson dropped the 40-man count to 39 and it might be possible to put injured reliever Mauricio Robles on the 60-day Disabled List to free another spot. But that still leaves a couple players who’ll need to be moved off the 40-man and thus exposed to waivers.

In other words, lots of shuffling still to be done. And, frankly, I’ll be surprised if the bullpen in particular doesn’t wind up with a pitcher or two picked up off waivers from other teams in the final days of spring. 

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