SURPRISE, Ariz. – Mike Sweeney clearly isn’t taking for granted the fact that the Seattle Mariners have already waived his primary spring-training competition.
One day after it was revealed that Ryan Garko had been placed on waivers to free up a roster spot, Sweeney continued his Fountain of Youth Tour on Wednesday by collecting two doubles and two singles. His fourth hit brought home the decisive run in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers, but still wasn’t enough to have Sweeney celebrating what everyone assumes will be an automatic spot on the roster.
“They’ve told me to be patient, so that’s what I’m doing,” Sweeney said after the game. “They have to wait for the roster to work itself out. They’ll have it all finalized by Sunday, so that’s what I’m waiting for.”
Sweeney apparently isn’t kidding about still being uncertain of what happens next. Sources indicate the club is still pondering what to do about Cliff Lee now that an appeal of his five-game suspension won’t be heard until the regular season begins.
“There’s a lot of stuff up in the air right now,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said, declining to go into detail.
The Mariners optioned Luke French to Triple-A Tacoma, meaning they are down to an 11-man pitching staff for now. There are rumors the Mariners might bring in another starting pitcher – one report had Jarrod Washburn rebuffing a recent overture for less than $1.5 million – but they could also opt to use Shawn Kelley as a long man and keep the bullpen at six arms.
Doing that would enable the team to keep both Sweeney and Ryan Langerhans on the major league roster.
But Lee’s status could throw that scenario out of whack. The Mariners are pondering whether to keep Lee on the roster to begin the season and have him serve his suspension before going on the disabled list.
Lee played catch for several minutes from a distance of 60 feet on Wednesday and said he felt fine afterward. The Mariners don’t want him missing any more time than he has to, which is why he could serve the suspension ahead of any DL stint.
If that happens, one of Langerhans or Sweeney would likely have to go.
The Mariners like Langerhans, especially as a center-field backup, and are fearful he’d be claimed on waivers if outrighted to Triple-A. But then, the only other option, if Lee begins the season on the roster, is to outright Sweeney to Triple-A for five days and go with Milton Bradley as the primary right-handed hitting designated hitter.
There is always a risk that Sweeney could also be claimed on waivers if sent to the minors.
For now, the only certainty is that Garko will be removed from the roster once his waiver period expires today. The Mariners exposed him to waivers, knowing he wouldn’t make their team and hoping another club might take on his $550,000 salary.
Sweeney has been told he’ll make the trip to New Mexico to launch the final exhibition series after today’s finale in Arizona.
The M’s saw non-roster invitee David Pauley make a four-inning start Wednesday to cap a spring in which he made a good impression on coaches. Pauley is already in minor league camp but could be called up if a spot starter or long reliever is needed.
“I came into camp wanting to make an impression and to be ready for anything they needed,” Pauley said after allowing five runs on 11 hits in four innings against the Rangers.
The Mariners placed pitcher Erik Bedard and infielder Jack Hannahan on the 15-day disabled list. The fact that Bedard wasn’t placed on the 60-day DL, which could have freed up a roster spot, indicates the team is still holding out some hope he can be ready to pitch in May.
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