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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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March 22, 2008 9:42 AM

Bullpen picture still murky

Posted by Geoff Baker

minor 007.jpg

One week before the Mariners play their final pre-season game, the team's bullpen situation is as unclear as it's ever been. Yes, the team knows J.J. Putz (pictured above, throwing in a minor league game this morning) will be the closer. It knows Eric O'Flaherty will be the situational lefthander in the late innings. And Sean Green fits in there somewhere in the seventh or eighth.

But that's it.

And with a week to go before the flight back to Seattle, that's all a little unsettling.

"We're going to have to sort this out a little at a time and see where we are,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said this morning. "We don't want to paint ourselves into a corner with innings available in the bullpen.''

Brandon Morrow should provide some further insights to the questions when he pitches in a game of some sort tomorrow. Still trying to figure out whether it will be a big-league contest or minor league affair. Most likely the latter. But the fact he's been green-lighted is a positive sign. He threw a bullpen session yesterday and apparently feels OK this morning.

So, that's a start.

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The Mariners are hoping Morrow is ready to go, but also understand that an entire season will remain to be played after opening day. No sense burning anyone's arm out if they aren't ready to go.

"We're looking for opening day,'' McLaren said. "But you've got to look at the big picture. We certainly don't want to rush anybody.''

Speaking of opening day, the guy who started it for the M's last year, Felix Hernandez, can be seen above, throwing in the same minor league game as Putz.

If Morrow isn't ready to go on March 31, then Green becomes the de-facto eighth-inning righty.

Outside of that, figuring out who would pitch the sixth or seventh is no easy feat.

Knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey seems a lock as the bullpen long man, especially since the team could need a pitcher to get them through multiple relief innings early and often. And the M's are hoping to use one of their three rehabbing relievers -- Arthur Rhodes, Mark Lowe or Chris Reitsma. Lowe has put up the best numbers of late, but Reitsma may be the guy closest to making it back to the majors. The fact that he hasn't had a clean inning yet could be cause for concern.

All of these factors will play into whether the M's go with a six or a seven-man bullpen. And that will impact the decision on how many backup position players will be taken. No wonder manager McLaren seems a little less relaxed with each passing day.

As I said, plenty of uncertainty remains with the regular season lurking. It's not as bad as the Angels losing their top two starting pitchers. But the M's, as good as they look in their own starting rotation (spring numbers aside) have their share of things to worry about.

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Posted by manito

10:44 AM, Mar 22, 2008

What are the options of not keeping Rhodes, Reitsma, and Lowe on the opening day 25 man roster, yet not losing them to another team? I would prefer a 6 man bullpen, allowing the Mariners to have more depth on the bench. Keep only Bloomquist or Cairo, plus Morse Reed, Jimerson, and Norton. If both Bloomquist and Cairo must stay, then cut Norton. Regardless of his legal problems, I would love to see the Mariners offer a 1 year deal to Bonds. Either that, or plant to promote Balentein by the All-Star break. What possible last-week-of-spring-training deals do you think could benefit the Mariners?

Posted by herrin_law

11:07 AM, Mar 22, 2008

What about Woods and Rowland-Smith? Seems like they've been very good this spring. That would give you Putz, O'Flaherty, Morrow, Rowland-Smith, Woods, Green, Dickey. And then there is Baek, who they can't ignore and shouldn't just let slip away. Perhaps when you say 'murky', you don't mean it in a negative way. Seems like we have a lot of solid options to create a balanced L-R effective bullpen.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:25 AM, Mar 22, 2008

I thought one of Mel's tenets was that started were going to go deeper this year. As long as JJ is ready to pitch 1 - 1 2/3 innings every day, and the starters stay healthy, how many people do you really need in the bullpen?

Posted by AKMarinersFan

11:28 AM, Mar 22, 2008

Morrow not being ready to start the season would be a blessing. If the bullpen does well it may make the shortsighted Mariners management that Morrow should stay in Tacoma to work on being a starter.

Unless Morrow is going to DH, or play 1st, 2nd, or LF, he is not going to help this team. The bullpen is the least of the Mariners worries.

Posted by George

11:34 AM, Mar 22, 2008

Rhodes and Reitsma are has beens! Why do the Mariners believe they can contribute? Neither have had a productive season in several years. Just plain stupid to even consider those two chumps for the roster, about as dumb as cloning Bloomie with Cairo. What a bunch of fools...

Posted by George

11:36 AM, Mar 22, 2008

Dumbass Bavasi will let Baek fly away. Just plain stupid!

Posted by nuin

11:56 AM, Mar 22, 2008

Hey, there's still Sherrill ... oh wait!! We gave him for nothing, I remember now.

Posted by scottM

12:01 PM, Mar 22, 2008

GEOFF, I'm surprised that you would write this entry on the bullpen and not mention the predicament with Baek. We lose Baek if we don't keep him on the big team. He has no options. Last season he started and pitched a few good games when Felix went down. Does the team have a better sixth pitcher insurance policy if Batista's back acts up or one of the other SPs tank? Also, he would be a good long reliever. Many of the other players you mention can go down to Tacoma until we need them. I say keep Baek in the bullpen.

Posted by scottM

12:06 PM, Mar 22, 2008

And what about Roland Ryan Smith. The guy looked great in the last half of last season and has been lights out in ST. Why no mention of him for the Bullpen?

Posted by Stranded_Mariner

12:40 PM, Mar 22, 2008

What are the chances of Jake Woods making the team? Probably not great because of the options dilemmas of others while I believe he still has options. But he has pitched great this Spring. He did a great job last spring too, and probably would have made the rotation if it weren't for the dangerous duo of Weaver and Ramirez being acquired during that offseason?

I really would like to see him make the club. At least we have options for once!

Posted by Fin

1:00 PM, Mar 22, 2008

It seems the Mariners have so many good younger options for the bullpen, but yet the organization has a woody for proven veterans, which seems like the only reason Reitsma and Rhodes even have a chance, even though they are both garbage now. Outside of the three locks in the bullpen, they can choose (Putz, O'Flaherty, Green):

Dickey
Morrow
Rowland-Smith
Woods
Baek

What I am just scared of is this organization taking another attempt this season in trying to have some veteran garbage arm shore up the bullpen (Reitsma, Parrish, Rick White). Rick White was by far the worse and could single handedly be guilty for ruining the Mariners' playoff hopes last year. I just hope they can resist the desire of having a veteran arm in the bullpen. You have so many better, cheaper, younger options with much more upside.

I would say go with Dickey, Woods, Rowland-Smith or Morrow, and Baek, season Morrow or Rowland-Smith to be a starter in Tacoma, and dump Rhodes and Reitsma before they do any damage in the regular season. Any of the five guys can last a long time in relief just incase one of the starters have a bad outing.

Posted by James from Walla Walla

1:01 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Geoff,

Here is how to solve the problem short term.
Batasta with his back problems, put him on the 15 day DL. Then, put Baek as the #5 Starter.
We totally want Morrow healthy, put him on the 15 day DL. Then work him back thru Tacoma. Put Lowe in his spot for the 8th inning work, he is ready. That leaves O'Flaherty, Rowland-Smith, as the lefties. Leaving Green/Woods and Dickey to fill out the 6-man bull-pen with JJ.

I agree Manito:

"Keep only Bloomquist or Cairo, plus Morse, Reed, Jimerson, and Norton. If both Bloomquist and Cairo must stay, then cut Norton." I like what I see of Norton's bat so far this ST. We have got to have
good depth on our bench meaning speed and power.

With Bloomquist having medical issues keeping him form playing, have him start on the 15 day DL.

Finally, trading for Roberts would be a great move.
But, how many players including Lopez would we
have to give up??

Posted by Fin

1:13 PM, Mar 22, 2008

I completely forgot Lowe in my previous post. I knew I was forgetting someone. That makes things even trickier. Now, I would say keep Dickey, Woods, Baek, Lowe in the pen and have Rowland-Smith and Morrow train to be starters in Tacoma just incase one of the starters goes down, or after 08 when we get rid of Washburn.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

1:14 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Geoff - How did Felix look this morning

Posted by scottM

1:21 PM, Mar 22, 2008

"Keep only Bloomquist or Cairo, plus Morse, Reed, Jimerson, and Norton. If both Bloomquist and Cairo must stay, then cut Norton."

I agree with it being either Bloomquist OR Cairo. Burke can't be forgotten. If you have six bench position players then you can keep Morse/Reed/Jimerson AND Norton. If you want to keep seven in the bullpen then one of the last four has to go.

Putz/OFlaherty/Green/Dickey/RRS/ Morrow OR Lowe/ AND Baek make the most sense to me, with Norton AND Cairo being cut.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

1:25 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Feierabend is a crappy pitcher but he sure does have a nice pickofff move. I guess if you put a lot of guys no base having a good pickoff move is important.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

1:29 PM, Mar 22, 2008

should be a lot of runs scored today...we got some pretty awful pitching

Posted by Faceplant

2:49 PM, Mar 22, 2008

"Dumbass Bavasi will let Baek fly away. Just plain stupid"

Given that Baek is nothing special, why do we really care? I don't care if he had an spring ERA of zero. Spring training stats are completely and utterly worthless.

Posted by zDawg

3:12 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Woods is a minor leaguer, not even on the 40 man roster, and there are 3 other lefties that are ahead of him.

Reitsma signed a minor league contract, so he can be reassigned to AAA, I believe.

Rhodes signed a minor league contract as well.

Lowe still has options.

I agree that Morrow is wasted as an 8th inning guy, and if they can get enough arms in the bullpen, I really hope he goes to AAA and become a starter.

Regarding options, the only guys to be worried about now are Morse, Baek, Jimerson. Reed still has options.

Posted by QA Davis

8:30 AM, Mar 23, 2008

I would have loved to know that Felix and JJ were pitching in minor league games. Can we get quick updates for those of us camped in Peoria

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