My prediction on final 25-man roster

It’s getting down to crunch time – or cut time – for the Mariners and things gained a little clarity with Thursday’s signing of veteran right-hander Chris Young to a one-year Major League deal.

Young’s arrival solidifies the starting rotation after the releases of Randy Wolf and Scott Baker, with Young slated to throw in Saturday’s Cactus League finale and then presumably take the fifth starting spot if all goes well.

The Mariners were off on Thursday, but will likely announce some roster cuts Friday as they zero in on the chosen 25 players for Monday’s opener in Anaheim. Final roster decisions aren’t due until noon on Sunday, but they’ll likely have most everything in place before then.

It’s pretty clear that Brad Miller has won the shortstop battle with his big spring. Manager Lloyd McClendon hasn’t acknowledged that yet, but he was playing Miller at short the last few days while moving Nick Franklin around at second and even a little right field. So, yeah, that one’s pretty clear.

Corey Hart played in a Minor League game on Thursday and went 2-for-7. It’s looking like he might be limited mostly to DH duties initially, so that opens up a starting spot for Michael Saunders in right field and, frankly, gives Seattle a better outfield defense with Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte and Saunders.

I’d expect Hart and Logan Morrison to share DH duties initially, depending on Hart’s health as he’s been recovering from a sore forearm.

The biggest remaining uncertainty seems to be the bullpen. That could go a couple different ways. Hector Noesi is out of Minor League options, so he’ll either need to be kept or exposed to waivers if he’s sent down.

Veterans Joe Beimel and Zach Miner have both pitched pretty well, but neither is on the 40-man roster, so somebody will have to be designated for assignment if either of them is kept. And the club is also going to need to open a 40-man spot for Roenis Elias, assuming he’s in the rotation as it appears. The same goes for two promising young bullpen candidates in Dominic Leone and Carson Smith, both of whom have pitched extremely well this spring as non-roster Minor League invitees.

A pretty good case could be made for keeping both Leone and Smith, but neither has pitched above Double-A ball before and they can be just a phone call away in Tacoma if they keep throwing well and a need arises.

Luetge has also pitched well recently and could definitely make the roster as a lefty, but I have a sense they’d like to keep the veteran Beimel. And Luetge has Minor League options, so he could be stashed in Tacoma. I expect Miner to make the club as the long man in the bullpen, though they might surprise and keep Noesi in that role.

So here’s my guess on the final 25-man roster, but we’ll likely get actual answers from the Mariners on Friday:

Starting pitchers (5): Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Roenis Elias, Chris Young. Sent down – Blake Beavan. 15-day disabled list – Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer.

Bullpen (7): Right handers Fernando Rodney, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina and Zach Miner. Left handers Charlie Furbush and Joe Beimel. Sent down – Lucas Luetge, Hector Noesi, Dominic Leone, Carson Smith, Ramon Ramirez. 15-day disabled list – Stephen Pryor.

Catchers (2): Mike Zunino, John Buck.

Infielders (6): Justin Smoak, Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Willie Bloomquist, Logan Morrison. Sent down — Nick Franklin.

Outfielders (5): Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Michael Saunders, Corey Hart, Stefen Romero.

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