Thursday, March 20, 2008

Latest Roster Cuts Shape Bullpen

Seattle continued to slim down the big league roster last night, optioning four players to AAA Tacoma. Catching prospect Jeff Clement, LOOGY hopeful Cesar Jimenez, rehabilitating middle reliever Jon Huber and reliever Sean White.

The least surprising of the cuts was White. He had planned on competing for a starting or long relief spot before the Erik Bedard trade, but didn't have much of an opportunity once camp rolled around.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the bullpen I figured Huber and Jimenez would come right down to the wire. Huber had just three appearances, two decent and one disastrous. Jimenez only had one bad outing when he gave up three runs on three hits and two walks back on March 8th. Between his other four outings he surrendered just two hits and no walks. This cut effectively locks Eric O'Flaherty into the left-handed specialist role.

These three cuts leave 13 pitchers left competing for the six or seven bullpen spots: J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Sean Green, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes, Roy Corcoran, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Philip Barzilla (?), Jake Woods, R.A. Dickey and Cha Seung Baek.

Of these remaining guys, I think the Opening Day bullpen will contain Putz, Morrow, Lowe, O'Flaherty, Green and Dickey. I think Morrow's sore shoulder has been overblown, and he should be ready for the start of the season. There has been some talk that he may start the year on the disabled list or in extended Spring Training, but he has started throwing again and all reports have been good ones. If he isn't ready, I would expect Rhodes, Rowland-Smith or Reitsma to temporarily take his roster spot.

Clement was the only position player cut. He was given an outside shot at the DH role, but didn't show much this spring, hitting just .158 in 19 at bats.

Jose Vidro is once again Seattle's full-time DH, but for how long? Seattle won't want Vidro back in 2009, so they have to have his vesting option in mind. While there is no official report of when Vidro's option vests, the most common rumor has it at 400 at bats or 450 plate appearances, whichever comes first. Seattle will likely look to AAA, promoting either Clement or Wladimir Balentien. Clement would take over at DH, while Balentien would nab an outfield spot, bumping Raul Ibanez to DH. Either way, Seattle keeps Vidro from coming back next season and adds some good young pop to the lineup at the same time. For more on this topic, keep an eye out for the next "Poll Results" post.

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