Mariners reassign Gillespie to Minors camp

Mariners reassign Gillespie to Minors camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners' outfield competition continued thinning out Tuesday as the club reassigned Cole Gillespie to its Minor League camp, leaving just six outfielders fighting for likely five spots.

Gillespie, 29, has had a strong showing this spring and was hitting .391 with seven RBIs in 23 at-bats over 14 Cactus League games, but he figured as a long shot from the start after signing as a non-roster invitee.

The former Oregon State standout has spent parts of the past three seasons in the Majors with the D-backs, Giants and Cubs, batting .225 with three home runs and 20 RBIs in 78 games.

With Gillespie's departure, the Mariners have 39 players remaining in Major League camp, including 29 roster players and 10 non-roster invitees.

That group includes six outfielders: Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Endy Chavez, Corey Hart, Stefen Romero and Michael Saunders. Chavez is the only non-roster invitee among that group.

Manager Lloyd McClendon indicated Ackley is his left fielder from Day 1 of camp, and Ackley started 13 of the team's first 21 games at that position while hitting .432. Almonte has been a fixture in center field, set to make his 13th start there in Tuesday night's game against the Padres.

Saunders is the most versatile of the group, and he has started 10 games in right field, one in center and one in left, while Hart is being brought along slowly from two knee surgeries that wiped out his 2013 campaign with the Brewers. He was slated for his third start of the spring in right on Tuesday night, and he has played seven games at designated hitter.

That would seem to leave Romero and the veteran Chavez competing for the last outfield spot, though infielders Willie Bloomquist and Logan Morrison can also play the outfield.

Romero brings a needed right-handed bat, and the club is trying to increase his versatility as a bench option, having him take ground balls at third base for the first time during Tuesday afternoon's workout. Chavez, 36, is a veteran who can play all three outfield positions and hit .267 in 97 games for the Mariners last season.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.