Mariners to have little roster drama this spring

Biggest battle for Opening Day spot will be for utility role

Mariners to have little roster drama this spring

With Spring Training fast approaching, takes a look at a different aspect of this year's Mariners squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

SEATTLE -- One of the primary goals of Spring Training is to prepare players for the 162-game regular-season grind. Another, of course, is whittling down rosters to the final 25-man group that will break camp and open that schedule in seven weeks.

For the Mariners, there doesn't appear to be a lot of roster drama entering manager Scott Servais' second camp. Barring players getting hurt, the club has a pretty good idea of who'll be suiting up for Opening Day on April 3 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Here's an early projection of how that roster will look, with the obvious caveat that things can and usually change during the course of Spring Training due to injuries or further acquisitions by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto.

Catcher (2): Mike Zunino and Carlos Ruiz are the backstop duo, with Zunino expected to get the majority of starts and the 38-year-old Ruiz acquired to offer a quality backup and solid bat while playing about 60-70 games.

First base (2): Danny Valencia and rookie Daniel Vogelbach will split duties in a platoon situation, if Vogelbach shows he's ready to be the left-handed-hitting part of that duo during the spring. The right-handed-hitting Valencia could wind up playing more if needed if Vogelbach isn't.

Second base (1): Robinson Cano will play this position as long as he's healthy.

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Shortstop (1): Jean Segura was acquired as a significant upgrade.

Third base (1): Kyle Seager has been an ironman at the hot corner for the past five seasons.

Outlook: Seager, 3B, SEA

Utility (1): Shawn O'Malley gets the early nod, but this looks like one of the biggest roster battles, with Taylor Motter and Mike Freeman also in the running. Motter could emerge if his right-handed bat proves to be a valuable weapon in the outfield, as well. The switch-hitting O'Malley is also a solid outfield option if needed.

Outfield (4): Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia are a good bet here, though Heredia's spot as the right-handed option to Dyson in left field could be challenged if the club decides some combination of Nelson Cruz, Valencia and Motter or O'Malley could fill a corner spot. That scenario might open a backup role for left-handed-hitting Ben Gamel.

Designated hitter (1): Cruz fills the bill as one of MLB's premier sluggers. He played 48 games in right field last year, as well, but that number continues to decrease as his age (36) increases.

Outlook: Cruz, DH/OF, SEA

Starting pitcher (5): Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo will be the rotation if all goes to plan, with Ariel Miranda the first option should a spot open up.

Bullpen (7): The favorites to break camp right now are closer Edwin Diaz and fellow right-handers Nick Vincent, Evan Scribner, Dan Altavilla and Shae Simmons and lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Miranda. That assumes Steve Cishek isn't quite ready to pitch by Opening Day as he returns from offseason hip labrum surgery. If Cishek is ready to go, either Altavilla or Simmons would likely open the season with Triple-A Tacoma.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.