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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 24, 2008 9:07 AM

Balentien, Woods cut

Posted by Geoff Baker

morse 002.jpg

A look above at Mike Morse, working the hot corner this morning with one week to go until the Mariners open their season. The season being so close means it's time for more cuts. Outfielder Wladimir Balentien was the biggest name optioned to Class AAA Tacoma this morning. Catcher Rob Johnson is joining him there as well.

Lefthanded pitcher Jake Woods, who opened some eyes down in camp, was reassigned to the team's minor league camp.

Balentien could be called up by the team at some point this summer.

"He's a young kid learning the strike zone and we want him playing every day,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said, later adding that "to me, he mirrors (Jeff) Clement. We don't want those guys sitting around as extra players. We want them playing on a regular basis and if we need him, he'll be ready.''

It's looking less and less likely that the team's roster will be set by the time it leaves Peoria on Thursday. One reason is the two rehabbing right handers, Chris Reitsma and Mark Lowe. The latter will pitch his second straight game today, while the former goes today and tomorrow.

One of the two is likely to make the squad. Left hander Arthur Rhodes is also rehabbing an elbow injury, but not as far along as the other two.

morse 001.jpg

That's why Rhodes will not throw in back-to-back games this spring and won't break camp with the big-league club -- even if the team goes with a 12-man pitching staff, which is looking more and more likely. Expect to see Rhodes up with the team at some point, though, perhaps by May as has long been targetted as his date to be ready to pitch in games.

My guess on the bullpen?

It will go J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow, Eric O'Flaherty, Sean Green, Chris Reitsma, R.A. Dickey and Ryan Rowland-Smith.

But that's just a guess. McLaren likes his veteran guys and I think he'd take Reitsma over Lowe to start with, all things being equal. The team does not want to rush Lowe, who they consider a true talent.

As for Rowland-Smith, he brings an option from the left side that has picked up innings at the major league level before. I see Cha Seung-Baek as more of a starter, not a guy who can come into a game in the fifth inning and take it from there. Rowland-Smith may not be a veteran, but he's handled this role in the majors before and done it well. And I think that will carry weight with the team. A fine spring by Rowland-Smith leaves no reason for pause. I think he'll make it, unless the M's go with only 11 pitchers.

And given the uncertainty surrounding Morrow, I just can't see that happening. Not for the sake of keeping an extra bench guy. At least, not yet.

As for Dickey, he might be one of the reasons the team doesn't name its roster right away. McLaren said this morning that he wants to see Dickey employ his slow knuckleball in the thicker air of San Francisco. Apparently, the thin air in Arizona, which has impacted most Mariners pitchers who rely on movement to get by, had prevented Dickey from using it until now.

Dickey experiemented with the slower knuckleball against the Angels yesterday, using it to strike out Garrett Anderson. Moments ago, Dickey told us that it was really the first time all spring he's shown the slower pitch to anyone. He wants to use it as a weapon, saying it will be a tremendous addition. But he's balked at throwing it in Arizona, saying he needed results in order to make this team and knows it's too flat in the thinner air to fool hitters consistently.

Hear the entirety of what Dickey said right here.

So, that means there might not be any decision on the long guys until Thursday night, another reason why setting the roster before leaving Peoria looks less likely. Although, I must say, my hunch is that McLaren already knows he's bringing Dickey north. He's seen plenty already. While a successful slow knuckleball on Thursday might represent the cherry on the whipped cream, I don't see him chucking the entire sundae if Dickey has one bad outing.

morse 003.jpg

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