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Originally published March 24, 2014 at 7:09 PM | Page modified March 24, 2014 at 10:13 PM

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Mariners’ rotation clearer after Scott Baker declines AAA option

Right-hander Scott Baker decided to test the free-agent market Monday, likely leaving Randy Wolf and Blake Beavan to compete for the last rotation spot.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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PEORIA, Ariz. — The competition for the starting rotation just lost a candidate.

The Mariners confirmed after a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Peoria Stadium on Monday that right-handed pitcher Scott Baker, who signed a minor-league contract in the offseason, had declined an offer to start the season in Class AAA Tacoma. Baker chose to test the free-agent market instead.

Baker, along with outfielder Endy Chavez and Humberto Quintero, are rule “XX (B)” players — major-league players who signed minor-league contracts in the offseason. Under the new collective-bargaining agreement, a team must notify those players by Tuesday if they are going to make the 25-man roster. If not, they can choose to become a free agent or accept a minor-league assignment. If they decide to go to the minors, they earn a $100,000 bonus and can opt out of their contract June 1 if they aren’t in the major leagues.

Manager Lloyd McClendon didn’t anticipate Monday morning having to make a move so soon, but said he has an idea of his opening-day rotation and roster.

“It’s just a matter of logistics,” McClendon said. “We’ll get a couple of things ironed out. But for the most part, I think we’re dwindling down.”

That rotation didn’t include Baker, who made just three big-league appearances last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.

Baker’s departure comes after a subpar outing Saturday, when he gave up six runs on seven hits with six walks in four innings.

Baker’s early exit seems to leave three pitchers vying for two spots. Obviously, Felix Hernandez is in the rotation and will start on opening day. And James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez appear to have earned spots based on their performances this spring.

That leaves two spots for left-handers Roenis Elias and Randy Wolf and right-hander Blake Beavan to win.

Elias has been the surprise of camp. The 25-year-old Cuban has pitched his way into the conversation, showing maturity and poise. McClendon said Elias would make one more Cactus League start, which is a good indicator he will make the rotation. Elias isn’t on the 40-man roster and would have to be added, but the Mariners have logical moves to make room for him.

That leaves Beavan and Wolf, who is also not on the 40-man roster, fighting it out for the final spot.

Beavan could have helped his own cause Monday. But a five-run second inning, when he gave up four hits on 0-2 or 1-2 counts, torpedoed his start. One of those hits was a three-run homer to Marcus Siemen.

“I need to make better pitches when I’m ahead,” he said. “That can’t happen. Some of them weren’t bad pitches. But they have to be better.”

Beavan was sharp for the next three innings, retiring all nine batters he faced. But in the sixth inning, he gave up a leadoff double to Connor Gillaspie and a two-run homer to Paul Konerko to end his day.

“It’s the same old thing — you can’t leave pitches up with two strikes,” McClendon said. “You have to make quality pitches to put guys away. Major-league hitters will not miss those pitches.”

Beavan has given up 14 runs on 13 hits in his last two starts. He knows it wasn’t the type of outing he needed this late in the spring.

“In the big picture, results don’t matter, but obviously when you are trying to make a team and make an impression, you want good results,” Beavan said. “I’m prepared for whatever decision they make. I feel I’ve proven my knee is healthy. I feel I’ve proven, for the most part, that I’m back to where I was in 2012.”

Wolf, who missed last season because of elbow surgery, has an opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the week. If he makes the team, he’d earn a salary of $1 million plus possible incentives.

Iwakuma on mend

All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma threw a baseball for the first time since being shut down with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand in February.

He made 43 throws from 60 feet.

“I felt good,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “The ball felt great going out off the finger. They wanted me to go lightly for six or seven minutes from 45 feet. That was the plan.”

“It’s still stiff,” Iwakuma said of his finger. “ I don’t have that range of motion yet, but it’s getting there.”

Note

Robinson Cano went 2 for 4 with an RBI single and three-run double.

One too many
Three pitchers appear to be vying for two starting spots on the M’s 25-man roster (spring stats):
PitcherW-LERAIPSO
LH Roenis Elias3-02.0417 2/38
LH Randy Wolf0-04.26199
LH Blake Beavan2-26.4623 2/314

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373

or rdivish@seattletimes.com.



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