McLaren ready to make tough choices

McLaren facing tough choices

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Seattle manager John McLaren, dressed for travel, sat back in the chair of his Spring Training office for the last time this spring on Thursday and took time to look ahead.

"I want to see some clouds, some rain," McLaren said, drawing scattered guffaws from those assembled. "I've been here since October, and I've seen it rain but once. I want to see some elements."

In a matter of days, he'll be back in Seattle and all the weather he can stand. He wouldn't have it any other way.

Meanwhile, there are a few lingering questions to be answered as the Mariners play their final four exhibition games over the weekend. There are still decisions on the makeup of the bullpen and on a backup outfielder.

McLaren didn't stay for the Mariners' final game in the desert. He was headed to San Francisco for the split-squad game at AT&T Park.

"We're just packing up and moving on," McLaren said. "It's been a good spring, and it's good to wrap it up. We had a couple of concerns, but we'll see how it goes. Position players, we're in good health there."

In the outfield, left-handed-hitting Jeremy Reed may find out that, despite hitting .346 during the spring, he'll start the season with Triple-A Tacoma.

"It's a situation what is best fit for us right now," McLaren said. "We're looking at the big picture and at March 31 [season opener against the Texas Rangers], putting our team together."

In the bullpen, Brandon Morrow may have to wait a day or two before he finds out if he goes to Seattle or Tacoma.

"We're trying to see where we are with him," McLaren said. "We want to have flexibility. That was the case in the decision with [Arthur] Rhodes and [Chris] Reitsma, [who were told Wednesday they would not be on the Mariners' Opening Day roster]. There's a situation like that coming again."

Despite having difficult roster decisions to make, the Mariners manager said the team is unified around one goal this year.

"We have to get back in the playoff picture," McLaren said. "Until we do that, we haven't done anything. Anything less than the playoffs would be a disappointment.

"The Angels have been on top of the division for a few years and our goal, our challenge, is to go get them. We're not taking Texas and Oakland lightly, either. This is a tough division. The Angels are the Angels. They play all-out baseball all the time. Texas can swing the bat."

McLaren thinks his team is ready to win and feels the addition of key players such as pitchers Erik Bedard, R.A. Dickey and Carlos Silva and outfielder Brad Wilkerson have given the Mariners enough depth to challenge the favored Angels.

"We came into camp with a buzz," McLaren said. "Our coaches just ran with it and connected with the players. I feel good about the team. I feel good starting the season."

The forecast calls for rain through the weekend in Seattle. McLaren should feel right at home.

Rick Eymer is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.