PEORIA, Ariz. – Lloyd McClendon rubbed his hands over his head and exhaled. It was done. The decisions were made. He’d had the difficult conversations with players who had been cut. He had the pleasure of telling a few players they made the team. He got all that done before noon on Friday.
The Mariners’ roster for opening day on Monday in Anaheim was officially set.
“There’s clarity,” McClendon said. “I have my team. It’s good. I had an opportunity to address my team for the first time today. It’s nice to have everything behind us.”
In the last week, the basic shape of the Mariners’ 25-man roster had formed. It was easy to presume about 90 percent of it. Yet, McClendon wouldn’t budge when it came to announcing the starting rotation, slots in the bullpen, the outfield spots or even the starting shortstop.
With the roster finalized, he was able to speak freely about his decisions.
He confirmed what everyone had already assumed – Brad Miller would be the starting shortstop. It became clear almost two weeks ago that Miller was pulling away from Nick Franklin in the race for the job.
“They both played extremely well,” McClendon said. “Brad separated himself. I’d be a fool if I told you he didn’t. I think we all saw it.”
Franklin was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma along with pitchers Brandon Maurer, Blake Beavan and Lucas Luetge. After Franklin played a few innings of outfield on Tuesday, the question of what position he would play with the Rainiers had to be asked.
“He will play shortstop predominantly,” McClendon said.
Will he play any outfield?
“He might play some outfield,” McClendon said.
The need for Franklin to play every day was the logic in sending him to Tacoma.
Franklin going to Tacoma also meant that Stefen Romero made the team as the fourth outfielder. It will allow McClendon to mix and match a little with four full-time outfielders.
Beavan being optioned to Tacoma meant that recently signed pitcher Chris Young would be in the rotation. McClendon said Young will serve as the No. 5 starter. The rotation begins with Felix Hernandez as the No. 1, followed by Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Roenis Elias and Young, who is scheduled to start today’s Cactus League finale in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Elias, a 25-year-old Cuban defector, will be making the jump from Class AA to the big leagues. His rise to the rotation this spring has been a surprise story.
“He was very happy,” McClendon said. “I didn’t understand everything he said because most of it was in Spanish. But I think in the end he tried to kiss me.”
The bullpen situation has also been solidified. Hector Noesi earned the long-relief job over Zach Miner, while Joe Beimel beat out Luetge for the other lefty specialist spot.a