PEORIA, Ariz. -- The muddied picture of the back end of the Mariners' starting rotation cleared up a bit Friday afternoon when the club told veteran Jon Garland he wouldn't be among their five starters to begin the season.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said that Garland had exercised his opt-out clause and technically has 24 hours to decide whether he wants to stay with the club, but he told the veteran right-hander he wasn't part of their immediate plans out of the gate in the regular season.
"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," Zduriencik said. "There's still some games left to be played, and we just couldn't put ourselves in that position at this time. There's still a battle going on for a few spots in the rotation."
Zduriencik said the protocol with the opt-out clause means it won't officially be exercised until Saturday, so that would leave the ball in Garland's court as to whether he wants to stay and see what happens with the Mariners or find a job elsewhere.
Garland wasn't immediately available for comment Friday afternoon, but his locker was cleared out. Garland said Thursday that he anticipated a number of clubs to be interested in his services.
Having recovered from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of half of 2011 and all of 2012, the 33-year-old had pitched well for the Mariners this spring, throwing six strong innings Thursday night in what very well may be his last outing with Seattle. In four Cactus League games, he was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 10 innings.
After watching Garland pitch well Thursday night, Mariners manager Eric Wedge was impressed but made it clear the team's rotation situation is much bigger than just Garland.
"I think when you look at it, we have to look at everybody involved," Wedge said. "When you talk about breaking with a starting rotation, it's a situation where it's not just about what you see in the spring. It's the past, it's the future, and it's right now."
With Garland out of the picture, the Mariners still have several candidates for the final two spots in the rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders. Blake Beavan, who will make the start against the Indians on Saturday, Brandon Maurer and Erasmo Ramirez are among the candidates for rotation spots who are on the 40-man roster, while veteran Jeremy Bonderman is a non-roster candidate.
"We're going to continue to watch these guys pitch. We still have multiple people vying for those two spots," Wedge said.
Bonderman is in a similar situation as Garland because he does not have a roster spot, so really he's trying to break through two barriers -- first to make the roster and second to make the rotation. In order for Bonderman to make the club, a player must be removed from the 40-man.
"It's always difficult to lose somebody off the roster," Zduriencik said. "The other thing that ties into this as well is that as your season unfolds and even as Spring Training unfolds, is there another player that could be added to the roster, another player who could make your club?"
Added Wedge: "With the talent we have in this organization now, any time you take somebody off the roster you risk losing him. That's something you have to take into consideration with any of your non-roster guys."
With Garland's double whammy of coming off surgery and not being on the 40-man roster, the Mariners weren't prepared to move forward with him established in a starting role.
Having a pitcher who has deep Major League experience but hasn't been in the Majors for 20 months makes it that much more difficult.
"I think Jon's worked very hard," Zduriencik said. "Then, from our end we think we have a pretty good battle for one of the rotation spots. Our decision at this time is we couldn't commit to giving him a roster spot as well as a spot in the rotation."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.