We’re getting close to final roster with three more cuts

Josh Bard (left) was sent to Minor League camp Monday. The veteran started the season last year in Tacoma as well, but we recalled on May 16 and played 39 games with the Mariners in 2010. (Photo by Greg Johns/MLB.com)

The Mariners starting rotation and catching crew became finalized Monday when the club made three roster moves, optioning left-handed pitcher Luke French to Triple A Tacoma and reassigning catchers Chris Gimenez and Josh Bard to the Minor League camp.

The trio of roster moves leaves Miguel Olivo and Adam Moore as the two surviving catchers. Bard and Gimenez both had nice camps, but Moore fought off any challenges with a strong spring of his own. Gimenez is an interesting prospect as a “super utility” guy who can play outfield and the corner infield spots as well and Eric Wedge says if he improves his bat a little  more, he’ll be a valuable Major Leaguer.

French’s departure means the remaining starting pitchers are the five who’ve clearly been groomed from the start of camp as the preferred rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard and top rookie prospect Michael Pineda.

The Mariners now have 32 players remaining in Major League camp, but reliever Shawn Kelley is on the Disabled List and three more — pitchers David Aardsma, infielder Matt Mangini and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez – likely will be placed on the DL as well.

Pitcher Nate Robertson, who is not on the 40-man roster, is also injured and won’t start the season with the club. So that leaves 13 healthy pitchers in camp, with one reliever expected to still be cut. Left-hander Cesar Jimenez and right-handers Tom Wilhelmsen and Jamey Wright appear to be competing for that final spot.

It’s looking more and more like Wilhelmsen — the long-shot story of the year — could make this team. Though I’ll continue running out my caveat that a few things can — and likely will — change if Jack Zdurienick finds something interesting on the waiver wire.

The Mariners also still have two utility infielders – Luis Rodriguez and Josh Wilson – fighting for one spot. Frankly, I’m not sure either will make the final roster as the club already has Adam Kennedy as a utility guy.

And something likely will still happen in the outfield, where only five players remain and Gutierrez is seemingly headed for the DL after not playing the past nine days with a stomach issue.

With two more games left in Arizona and one final tuneup Wednesday in Los Angeles, things are getting close. Today’s lineup against the Rockies looks remarkably like what Eric Wedge will trot out against the A’s on Opening Night this Friday, though catcher Miguel Olivo likely will start ahead of Adam Moore if he’s ready to roll.

Jack Cust is back in the lineup today after being pulled after one at-bat Sunday with a stiff back.

Here’s today’s batting order:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley LF
Jack Cust DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saunders CF
Adam Moore C
Brendan Ryan SS
Jack Wilson 2B
Jason Vargas P

1 Comment

How much can we read into the Spring Training games that show, so far, a winning record for the Mariners, a dismal record for the NY Yankees and a continuation of winning ways for the World Champion SF Giants?
Would skeptics say the Mariners chose to use their better players in Spring Training while most of their opponents used the opportunity to try untested players from the lower minors?
Really now, what does the Mariners spring record portend for the 2011 regular season? Can any of the Seattle sports writers tell us?

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