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.

Mariners add big Chris Young to rotation mix

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves

Looking to improve their starting pitching options, the Mariners went big on Thursday. Big as in 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young, who signed a Major League deal and will immediately challenge for a rotation berth.

Young, 34, was a 2007 National League All-Star with the Padres who was released by the Nationals earlier this week.

To make room on their 40-man roster, the Mariners designated left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise for assignment.

Young spent last year with Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals organization and had surgery in June to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, an issue he believes had been causing shoulder problems that led to two prior surgeries.

He posted a 3.48 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances with the Nationals this spring, allowing eight hits and four runs with four walks and nine strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings.

Young is a nine-year Major League veteran with a career record of 55-43 with a 3.79 ERA, but he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2012 with the Mets when he was 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts.

He went 9-8 and ranked fifth in the National League with a 3.12 ERA with the Padres in 30 starts in 2007, but hasn’t pitched a full season since due to a variety of arm issues. When healthy, the former third-round Draft pick has proven to be a quality starter, but staying on the mound has been his biggest challenge.

The Mariners are looking for pitching depth after releasing veterans Randy Wolf and Scott Baker earlier this week. With All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma sidelined until at least mid- to late-April by a sprained finger tendon and top young prospect Taijuan Walker just beginning to throw in Minor League outings after a sore shoulder slowed his camp, Seattle was down to five healthy starting candidates.

Felix Hernandez is scheduled to make his seventh Opening Day start on Monday in Anaheim and Erasmo Ramirez will follow on Tuesday. Manager Lloyd McClendon has yet to announce his other starters, but young left-hander James Paxton appears to be lined up to pitch the third game and rookie Roenis Elias has pitched well this spring and also is contending for a spot.

If he’s ready, Young could compete with Blake Beavan for the fifth spot in the rotation. The Mariners have yet to announce  a starter for their final Cactus League game Saturday against the Rockies.

Hernandez and Ramirez have already made their final spring starts.  Paxton is pitching in a Minor League game Thursday, since the Mariners are off. Elias will start Friday night against the Rockies in Scottsdale.

Young passed his physical with the Mariners on Thursday. He started two games this spring with the Nationals and last threw in relief on Saturday when he tossed 2 1/3 innings with one hit and no runs, no walks and three strikeouts against the Marlins.

Young is tied with Mariners Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for the second-tallest player in Major League history behind the 6-11 Jon Rauch. He earned a degree in politics from Princeton, where he played baseball and two seasons of basketball and was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in both sports in 1999.

Tuesday’s Game 30 recap: Rangers 5, Mariners 3

Franklin-ErasmoPlayer of the Game: Erasmo Ramirez completed a strong spring with five-plus innings of one-run ball and then was told by manager Lloyd McClendon that he’ll be the No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez when the Mariners open the regular season next week in Anaheim. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 1.14 ERA in six Cactus League outings, wrapping things up by allowing just three hits with no walks and six strikeouts against the Rangers.

Stat of the Game: Dustin Ackley went 1-for-3, giving him hits in 20 of the 21 games he’s played this spring. The new left fielder has been remarkably consistent and is batting .406. he came into the game tied with Toronto’s Melky Cabrera for the most hits of any player this spring with 25 and also ranks among Cactus League Top 10 hitters in batting average, doubles, RBIs, total bases and slugging percentage.

Storyline: McClendon criticized Ramirez for not throwing quality strikes in favorable 0-2 and 1-2 counts in his last outing, saying he’d get lit up by good Major League hitters if he did that in the regular season. The youngster took that to heart and zipped through most of the Rangers’ regulars in the first time through the order before Texas went to its bench in its final Arizona game. Among his strikeout victims – Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios.

Worth noting: McClendon again played Brad Miller at shortstop while putting Nick Franklin at second base in place of Robinson Cano (who was at DH), again proving with actions what he’s unwilling yet to say with words – that Miller has won the starting shortstop job. Miller went 1-for-2 with a walk and is hitting .439. Franklin was 2-for-4 with a double and his batting .265.

Quote of the Day: “Opportunities are there and somebody has to step up and get it done.” – McClendon on his young pitching staff in the wake of the release of veterans Scott Baker and Randy Wolf.

Next: The Mariners have a final off day for their Major League club on Thursday, but left-hander James Paxton will start a Minor League game at the Peoria Complex in his final tuneup before the regular season begins next week. Paxton appears to be lining up as the club’s third starter behind Felix Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez and has posted a 3.18 ERA in five spring outings. The Mariners return to Cactus League play on Friday at 7:05 p.m. PT against the Rockies at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, with young southpaw Roenis Elias making his third start as he continues zeroing in on his own rotation berth. That game will be televised live on MLB.TV and ROOT Sports.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

Here’s my conversation with Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith on his thoughts on the upcoming season.

And here’s today’s notebook with the news of the day from camp.

Tuesday’s Game 30 recap: Mariners 9, Royals 6

Felix smiling

Player of the Game: Right fielder Stefen Romero was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the third inning, as he continued solidifying his spot as a backup outfielder. Romero raised his spring average to .296 – a long climb after an 0-for-16 start – and hit his fourth home run, equaling Brad Miller’s team high. Romero even got his first action of the spring at first base in the late innings and snared a line drive, earning kudos from manager Lloyd McClendon for his play in the infield.

Stat of the Game: Felix Hernandez threw just 67 pitches to get through his five-inning stint in his final start of the spring and said that was plenty to get him tuned up and ready for his Opening Day start on Monday in Anaheim. Hernandez gave up five hits and three runs with no walks and six strikeouts, retiring 11 straight after a rocky first frame.

Storyline: Hernandez originally was slated for six innings, but said he felt fresh and strong and figured that was a perfect time to stop and get ready for the regular season. Hernandez said all his pitches felt great in his final Cactus League outing.

Worth noting: Shortstop Brad Miller continued his red-hot spring with two more doubles and his now hitting ..436 after a 3-for-4 day. Manager Lloyd McClendon still hasn’t pronounced a winner in the shortstop battle with Nick Franklin, but actions often speak louder than words. And Franklin started this game at second base and was shifted to right field for the first time this spring for the final few innings. “We’re just tinkering,” McClendon said.

 Quote of the Day: “Now it’s time to start a new season and I’m ready for that.” – Felix Hernandez after his final spring outing.

Next: Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez makes his final spring start as the Mariners face the Rangers on Wednesday in a 12:05 p.m. PT game in Surprise. Ramirez, 23, has posted outstanding numbers (3-0, 0.96 ERA) in five Cactus League outings, but manager Lloyd McClendon wants him to work more on location on pitches when he’s ahead in counts. Ramirez appears ticketed to pitch Seattle’s second game of the regular season in Anaheim. The game will be available live for free on MLB.com’s Gameday Audio as well as on tape delayed at 7 p.m. PT on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

Here’s my story on Randy Wolf requesting his release after http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/sea/veteran-pitcher-randy-wolf-granted-release-by-seattle-mariners?ymd=20140325&content_id=70118124&vkey=news_sea.

Here’s Michael Saunders’ thoughts and favorite memories about Opening Day.

And here’s the rest of the day’s news from camp in my daily notebook.

Saturday’s Game 26 recap: Rockies 4, Mariners 3

Elias, Roenis

Player of the Game: Left-hander Roenis Elias is turning into quite a spring story for the Mariners as he continued making his case to land a rotation berth with another solid outing. The 25-year-old Cuban allowed four hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, then went to the bullpen and tossed 10 more to get his final pitch count up to 92. His only mistake was a two-run homer by Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario on a fastball that drifted over the middle of the plate in the fourth.

Stat of the Game: Robinson Cano went 0-4, which serves as news this spring. Cano’s average dropped to .500 with just his second hitless game in Cactus League play. He did move a runner over to third to set up an RBI groundout by Kyle Seager in the third and then flew out to the opposite field twice before being replaced in the seventh inning.

Storyline: While Elias was impressing manager Lloyd McClendon in Scottsdale, fellow starting contender Scott Baker had a rugged outing against the A’s in another split-squad game in Phoenix. Baker was roughed up for six runs on seven hits with six walks in four-plus innings and gave up two homers. Meanwhile, Elias likely earned himself another start next week, according to McClendon, and certainly seems to be doing everything possible to keep his name alive in the battle for the final two starting spots behind Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton.

Worth noting: Shortstop Brad Miller continued his scorching spring with a 2-for-4 day that included two double. Miller now has four doubles, four triples and four home runs this spring and leads the Cactus League in slugging percentage at an impressive 1.000. Young reliever Dominic Leone also had another good showing, striking out the last four batters he faced in a scoreless 1 2/3 inning outing.

Quote of the Day: “He threw the ball extremely well. I was very pleased. He just keeps going out there and keeps doing good. He certainly has made a statement for himself.” – McClendon on Elias.

Next: Veteran southpaw Randy Wolf continues his bid for a rotation berth with his fifth start of the spring on Sunday when the Mariners host the A’s in a 1:05 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium. The 37-year-old non-roster invitee has thrown well coming back from a year off following Tommy John surgery and has a 4.15 ERA after throwing four scoreless innings with two hits against the Padres in his last outing. Closer Fernando Rodney and Yoervis Medina are also scheduled to pitch in the game, which will be carried live on Gameday Audio on MLB.com and 710 ESPN Seattle.

Here’s today’s boxscore from the Rockies’ game.

Here’s today’s boxscore from the A’s game.

Here’s my story on Elias’ outing and his improving chances of landing a rotation spot.

And here’s my notebook with all the day’s news from camp.

Decision time looming for Mariners in last week

McClendonToday is the last split-squad day of spring for the Mariners, who will use road games against the A’s and Rockies to play pretty much all their position players and get another look at roster contenders Scott Baker and Roenis Elias.

There will only be five Cactus League games remaining after this busy Saturday, which also sees Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor throwing an inning each in a Minor League game against the Padres Triple-A team as they make their first live appearances of the spring. That game will be at 1 p.m. PT on the Padres main practice field at the Peoria Complex.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said there are still a few decisions left to be made when it comes to the final 25-man roster. He’s not one to divulge much there yet, but the final rotation spots beyond Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton seem still up in the air between Elias, Baker, Randy Wolf and Blake Beavan.

The final couple spots in the bullpen also are still to be determined, with veteran non-roster invitees Joe Beimel and Zach Miner competing with young guns Dominic Leone and Carson Smith and returnees Lucas Luetge and Hector Noesi. The seeming locks in the pen would be closer Fernando Rodney and set-up men Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen, Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina, which leaves two openings.

Smith threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in Friday night’s loss to the Padres and now has been unscored upon in 7 1/3 frames with four hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts. Those are hard-to-ignore numbers and you can add the 6-foot-6 right-hander’s name to the mix.

“He’s still here,” McClendon said. “Power arm … there’s a lot to like. He’s got nasty stuff. He’s starting to use his changeup a little more, I think he’s gaining confidence with every outing. Both of those young men, Smith and Leone, have thrown extremely well. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see.”

The Mariners have to officially name a starting shortstop, though Brad Miller has done everything imaginable on the field with a huge spring at the plate. McClendon continues playing Abraham Almonte in center field and the leadoff role and clearly wants to make that work with the speed and power tools Almonte brings to the table. Michael Saunders could play center as well, but he’s seeing most of the time in right field and will continue to do so unless Corey Hart can play there more than he has this spring.

“I think there is still a little decision making left to be made,” McClendon said Saturday morning. “It really has everything to do with the makeup of the club, the depth of the club as we move forward. When are we getting guys back that are injured? Those things come into play. There’ll be a lot of talking and discussing. And the performance of the players the last week will dictate some things as well. It’s unfortunate we don’t have that stamped lineup that we know is set, but it is what it is.”

Here are the lineups being rolled out today, with most of the starters lined up against the Rockies. That game will be replayed on ROOT Sports at 5 p.m. PT, with the Rockies broadcast crew calling the game. The A’s game will be carried live on 710 ESPN Seattle radio with Aaron Goldsmith and Mike Blowers calling the action, as Rick Rizzs has a rare day off.

AT ROCKIES (1:10 p.m.)
Abraham Almonte CF
Brad Miller SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Kyle Seager 3B
Mike Zunino DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Dustin Ackley LF
Cole Gillespie RF
Humberto Quintero C

Roenis Elias LHP

AT A’S (1:05 p.m.)
Endy Chavez CF
Nick Franklin SS
Stefen Romero LF
Logan Morrison 1B
Michael Saunders RF
D.J. Peterson 3B
Austin Wilson DH
Willie Bloomquist 2B
John Buck C

Scott Baker RHP

Friday’s Game 25 recap: Padres 7, Mariners 2

Miller, Brad (2)

Player of the Game: Shortstop Brad Miller continued his torrid recent stretch with a 2-for-3 night with a double and run and an RBI as he raised his Cactus League batting average to .463 (19-for-41). Ten of those hits have gone for extra bases, with two doubles, four triples and four homers. In his last three games, Miller has hit 8-for-11 with two doubles, two triples and a home run. Yeah, that’s pretty good.

Stat of the Game: Robinson Cano went 1-for-2 and lowered his spring batting average to .563. Cano only played three innings as the Mariners starters were pulled early with split-squad day games on the slate Saturday. But Cano did his damage with an RBI double in the first, extending his hitting streak to nine games.

Storyline: James Paxton hasn’t officially been named to the rotation yet, but it’s pretty apparent the young left-hander is being lined up to pitch in the first series of the regular season in Anaheim. He didn’t have his best outing of the spring, giving up four hits and three runs in four innings with two walks and four strikeouts. McClendon pulled him after 70 pitches and sent him to the bullpen to throw another 20 with pitching coach Rick Waits, who had him correcting some things in an attempt to keep all his pitches down.

Worth noting: With instant replay in effect, McClendon went out to challenge a call at first base with two out in the bottom of the eighth when he questioned whether San Diego’s Kyle Blanks had pulled his foot on a high throw that nipped Austin Wilson. The umpires upheld the call in just over a minute.

Quote of the Day: “Everything is not going to go perfect every time out. Sometimes you have to pick your team up a little bit and for the most part I thought he did a pretty good job.” – McClendon on Paxton’s outing.

Next: The Mariners have their final split-squad day of the spring with a pair of afternoon road games on Saturday. Veteran right-hander Scott Baker gets the start against the A’s in Phoenix in a 1:05 p.m. game that will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle and MLB.com’s Gameday. Young left-hander Roenis Elias makes his second start of the spring against the Rockies in a 1:10 p.m. contest at Salt River Field in Scottsdale. Both pitchers are non-roster invitees competing for one of the final rotation berths. Additionally, Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor will both make their spring debuts in a Minor League game against the Padres at 1 p.m. at the Peoria Sports Complex as they return from injuries.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

Here’s my feature story today on hard-throwing Dominic Leone’s bid to land a bullpen role.

And here’s today’s notebook with all the day’s news from camp.

Progress on pitching front for injured hurlers

Iwakuma w-splintInjured All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma threw a tennis ball Friday in his first step back from a six-week layoff with a sprained finger tendon, while young right-handers Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor are scheduled to make their spring debuts in Minor League games on Saturday.

The three injured hurlers could all be critical factors for the Mariners this season, so their progress is being closely monitored. All three will presumably open the regular season on the 15-day disabled  list, given there are only 10 days now until Seattle faces the Angels in Anaheim on March 31.

Iwakuma, 32, will need to slowly build back up his arm strength over the coming weeks. He began the throwing program with a tennis ball inside the Mariners training room, just to work on strengthening his grip after not being able to hold a baseball the past six weeks.

“I’m happy he’s back out and starting to be active again,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But it’s going to take a little while. It’s not going to happen overnight. We just need to get him moving forward.”

Walker, a 21-year-old projected to land a starting rotation job coming into this spring as one of baseball’s premier prospects, hasn’t pitched in a game since arriving in camp with a sore throwing shoulder and later being shut down for a week after being diagnosed with bursitis.

But he’s thrown three bullpen sessions in recent days and now will begin testing his arm in game situations, with a scheduled 20-30 pitches on Saturday in an outing against the Padres’ Triple-A club at their Peoria complex.

“Ideally we’d like to see him go two innings and see how it goes,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’s a Minor League game, so we can control it and go from there.”

Pryor, 24, hasn’t thrown in a game since a Minor League rehab outing last July, when the hard-throwing reliever discovered he was having further issues with a torn latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder that initially sidelined him two weeks into the Mariners’ season.

Pryor is scheduled to throw up to 20 pitches in a one-inning outing in one of the Minor League games in Peoria as well.

“I’ll get in there and see how it goes,” Pryor said. “It’s a big step for me. I’m excited about it.”

Pryor has thrown five bullpens and three live batting practice sessions this spring, clearing every hurdle while increasing his strength and velocity. He was expected to be a key member of last year’s bullpen and had thrown 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the first two weeks of the year when he initially tore the lat muscle.

If he can return at full strength in the early going this season, that would be a significant boost to Seattle’s relief crew. And the big right-hander feels that is certainly possible.

“I’m not coming up sore or hurt, so this is the next step in the progression,” he said. “I set high goals for myself so I was hoping to be ready to go April 1. That’s not the case. I don’t know where they have me, but if I could be back in mid-April, before May sometime, that would be great in my opinion. But we’ll have to wait and see how the progression goes.”

Pryor said the game situation will be a good test.

“I’ve been trying to get after it and see how it feels and how I come back the next day,” he said. “Pitching in a game situation, adrenaline is going to be there and you’re going to try a little harder. So I’m anxious to see how that goes.”

Thursday’s Game 24 recap: Mariners 3, Cubs 0

ErasmoRamirezPlayer of the Game: Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez got out of a first-and-third jam in the first inning and proceeded to throw six scoreless frames as he continued a strong spring. Ramirez lowered his Cactus League ERA to 0.96 while allowing just four hits with no walks and four strikeouts. He was efficient enough with a 63-pitch outing that he went and threw another 20-25 pitches in the bullpen afterward.

Stat of the Game: There doesn’t appear to be any stopping Robinson Cano this spring as the second baseman went 2-for-3 with a walk to raise his Cactus League average up to .567. Cano extended his hitting streak to eight games with his pair of singles. Dating back to 2006 with the Yankees, Cano has hit .349 (179-for-513) in 175 Spring Training games.

Storyline: Manager Lloyd McClendon said afterward that he’s still not ready to make any pronouncements on who has clinched rotation berths beyond Felix Hernandez, but clearly Ramirez has done everything necessary to win a job and indeed appears on schedule at the moment to pitch the second game of the regular season.

Worth noting: Dustin Ackley went 3-for-4 with a double, raising his spring average to a healthy .457 (21-for-46). The left fielder appears to have more than carried over last year’s strong finish when he led the Mariners with a .304 average after the All-Star break.

Quote of the Day: “My arm feels healthy and that’s why I love it. Just to feel healthy again, not sore like last year. I’m just trying to be positive in my mind and not be crazy. Just stay where I am and not try to do more. Just stay in my routine and throw strikes.”  – Ramirez after his six shutout innings.

Next: Young left-hander James Paxton makes his fifth Cactus League start on Friday in a 7:05 p.m. game against the Padres at Peoria Stadium. Paxton appears to have locked up a rotation berth with a strong spring as he’s put up a 2.08 ERA with three earned runs and 13 hits in 13 innings with just one walk and eight strikeouts. Relievers Zach Miner, Carson Smith and Danny Farquhar are also scheduled to throw one inning apiece in the game, which will be carried live on MLB.TV and ROOT Sports.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

Here’s a story by MLB.com columnist Barry Bloom on Randy Wolf’s comeback bid with the Mariners.

And here’s my notebook with all the day’s news from camp.

Felix throwing Minor League game today

Felix Hernandez pitches today at noon in a Minor League game against the Brewers’ Class-A team on Field 6 in the Mariners Peoria Complex, getting his second-to-last spring action in without having to travel to Mesa with the rest of the club for Thursday’s Cactus League game.

Most of the Mariners are facing right-hander Jeff Samardzija in the 1:05 p.m. PT game at the Cubs brand-new park.

Manager Lloyd McClendon gave Hernandez his choice and the veteran chose to pitch in the Minor League game, skipping the hour travel. He’ll make his final spring start against the Royals on Tuesday before making his seventh Opening Day start on March 31 in Anaheim.

That lets Erasmo Ramirez get the start today against the Cubs. Manager Lloyd McClendon wanted to watch both games, but the noon start doesn’t allow travel time to get to both, so he’ll rely on reports on Felix’s outing.

“It’s going to be hard for me to pull that off. I don’t think they’ll send a helicopter for me,” McClendon said with a smile.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Abraham Almonte CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Justin Smoak 1B
Corey Hart DH
Logan Morrison RF
Dustin Ackley LF
Nick Franklin SS
John Buck C

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

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