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M's won't commit to Garland as a starter, so he elects to leave
Jon Garland wasn't about to wait to see whether he'd pitched well enough this spring to land a job in the Mariners' starting rotation. But that's exactly what...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — Jon Garland wasn't about to wait to see whether he'd pitched well enough this spring to land a job in the Mariners' starting rotation.
But that's exactly what the Mariners wanted and so, armed with an "out" clause and other teams supposedly interested, the veteran packed his bags and left the Peoria Sports Complex late Friday afternoon. The clause in his minor-league deal that enables him to opt out doesn't finalize for 24 hours, but there's little chance he'll return to the Mariners before it does.
And so, that leaves four starting pitchers — Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Brandon Maurer and non-roster veteran Jeremy Bonderman — competing for two open roster spots the final week of camp.
"We sat down and we talked and we weren't at this moment in time, prepared to commit one of the starting spots in the rotation to Jon," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "There are still some games left to be played. We just couldn't put ourselves in that position at this time. We have a battle going on, we think, for a few spots in the rotation."
Zduriencik said the team will "wait it out and see what happens" but there's little chance Garland returns if there are indeed other clubs truly interested. Pitching-thin clubs like the Colorado Rockies are thought to want a look at Garland, and he'd seem a shoo-in to land a spot there barring a complete collapse in his game.
Garland, 34, was reportedly poised to earn $1 million in base salary and $500,000 in potential incentive money had he made the Mariners. But with the other four contenders fairly close in terms of what they've shown, the Mariners don't want to rule anything out with this much time before the season opens.
The fact Garland would need a roster spot cleared for him this soon before the season begins is also something Zduriencik mentioned as an issue. Zduriencik already faces some tough decisions with other players.
And there could also be another player the team wishes to add, either from within the organization or outside. It's possible, for instance, that Bonderman could be asked to go to Class AAA for more seasoning and then be added to the squad later on.
"They become very valuable assets for you," Zduriencik said of open roster spots.
Bonderman said Friday that, unlike Garland, he doesn't have any out clause in his deal. He also wouldn't say whether he'd accept a AAA assignment if asked, or simply retire and head on home.
"I'll cross that bridge if and when it comes to that," he said. "Right now, I'm not going to comment on stuff like that until I know they want me to do that."
Bonderman has gradually improved with each outing as he works off the rust from not having pitched in the majors since 2010. The team likely wants to see another start from him.
Garland arrived at the complex Friday afternoon, fresh off his six innings of two-run ball against the Chicago Cubs the night before. He said his surgically-repaired shoulder felt fine and had held up well in his longest outing this spring.
And he also made clear he would trigger the out clause if the Mariners were not ready to commit.
"I'm going to hear what they have to say first," he said. "After that, I'll know what I have to do. That's all I can do now is wait to hear what they have to say."
And once he did, he left the building, unlikely to come back.
Opening-day starter Felix Hernandez looked in regular-season form Friday night, throwing six innings of two-hit, scoreless ball against the San Diego Padres. Hernandez had nine strikeouts, didn't walk anybody and needed only 70 pitches to get through the six frames — 10 fewer than he'd been scheduled for.
"Everything was sharp," Hernandez said. "My fastball was pretty good, I had a lot of command. The breaking ball did the job. Every start I feel more comfortable. I'm just getting ready for the season."
Hernandez's only trouble came in the second inning, when he yielded a two-out single and then a Cameron Maybin double to left center. But with two on, he retired the side on a ground out and never looked back.
"You know me, I'm a competitor," he said. "So, every time I see that, something comes out inside of me and I get locked in."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.
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