M's must make decision on left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge
The Rule 5 selection must stay on Mariners' major-league roster all season or be returned to Milwaukee, the team that originally drafted him
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners got a little unexpected free time Sunday when rain and a hailstorm blew through the Phoenix area and caused the cancellation of Seattle's game with Colorado after four innings.
That gave the Mariner brain trust a few extra hours to deliberate the many personnel decisions that remain until the team leaves for Japan on Thursday.
Among those is what to do with relief pitcher Lucas Luetge, whom the Mariners acquired in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 8.
As a Rule 5 selection, Luetge — a 24-year-old left-hander who had been in the Brewers organization his first four years — has to be kept on the major-league roster all season or be offered back to his original club for $25,000.
Luetge had been initially drafted by the Brewers when now-Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik worked for Milwaukee.
Still, the history of Rule 5 draftees making the roster isn't great — and making an impact is even less likely.
Luetge, though, has done enough to last through the first two rounds of cuts and place himself firmly in the discussion for the final roster.
"He's definitely in the mix, so we'll see how it plays out," said Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis said of Luetge, known more for his off-speed pitches than pure speed.
The Mariners drafted Luetge with the idea that he would be a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. In the spring, though, pitchers usually just get an inning or two with no regard to the opposing lineup, giving Luetge a chance to show the Mariners a little more.
"We've seen a very good breaking ball, not only left-on-left breaking ball but his breaking ball is effective to righties as well and he's commanding the ball I think beyond our expectations when you look at him coming from Double AA into a major-league camp," Willis said.
Luetge pitched two scoreless innings Thursday against the White Sox with two strikeouts and has struck out seven of 21 batters he has faced this spring. He allowed one run in each of his first two appearances, but has four scoreless innings since then.
"I came in here a little shaky," said the 6-foot-4, 203-pound Luetge. "I was a little nervous and everything was kind of new to me. But now I've gotten back to what I normally do and everything has gone well since then."
Luetge had been drafted by Milwaukee in the 21st round after playing a year at Rice (and two more before that at San Jacinto College). He spent last year in Class AA but wasn't on Milwaukee's 40-man roster, making him eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
He said he had no clue he might be taken by Seattle. "I knew the draft was going on that day but I didn't know what time or anything until I got a text message from a teammate saying 'congratulations,' " he said.
Being taken as a Rule 5 player means he was automatically invited to Seattle's major-league camp, something he wasn't sure would have happened with the Brewers.
He said appreciating that opportunity is enough, for now, to overcome the worries of what might happen next. He could be back with the Brewers if the Mariners don't keep him, or the teams could work out a deal that would allow Seattle to have the flexibility to send him to the minor leagues.
"I try not to (think about what what's next)," he said. "It's hard not to because people always call me and ask, 'What's going on?' But I try not to think about that stuff that much. Otherwise, it would just kill me."
• The Mariners were ahead 3-2 with the teams getting ready to start the top of the fifth when rain and hail hit. After an initial delay of about 30 minutes, the teams took to the field again to try to resume the game when more rain hit and the game was called. Manager Eric Wedge said, "I've never seen anything like that in Arizona. Odd."
• Hector Noesi pitched all four innings for Seattle, allowing two runs on four hits. It was a performance Wedge said continued a strong spring for Noesi, whose chances of making the rotation look better with each outing. "He's really pitched well and to think that today was not under everyday circumstances, he handled it well, too, so he's done a nice job for us," Wedge said.
• Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer in the fourth and Chone Figgins had a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the inning.
• Ichiro entered the game hitting .409 and had one single and another hard-hit ball for an out in two appearances Sunday.
Said Wedge: "He's had a real good spring. He's swinging the bat well and I think that when you look at the way he's swinging the bat and the way he's seeing the ball, it's been real good. Been really pleased with it."
• The team had planned to get shortstop Brendan Ryan back in the lineup but decided against it because of the wet conditions.
He hasn't played since Wednesday while nursing a quadriceps injury. He's scheduled to play Monday.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.