With just over three weeks until Opening Day, the Seattle Mariners are beginning to get a clear idea of who will come out victorious in their most intense position battles.

The Mariners entered spring training with only a couple of spots up for grabs on the 25-man roster. After Seattle shored up its weaknesses from last year’s roster with offseason acquisitions, only shortstop, the No. 5 rotation spot, one position in the bullpen and one on the bench were available at the start of camp.

Clear favorites have emerged in each of those battles, whether it be due to performance or injury. While spring stats shouldn’t mean everything (or even much) when deciding roster spots, Seattle’s position battles feel decided barring something out of the ordinary or further injury.



The fight between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor for the starting shortstop job was the most interesting thing to watch in Mariners camp up until Saturday. Both potential candidates were playing well, and it appeared the Mariners would have to wait until the final days of spring training to make a sure decision.

Unfortunately, an examination revealed Taylor suffered a fractured bone in his right wrist and will be sidelined for four to six weeks, according to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times. That means Miller is guaranteed the job for the first month or so of the season unless he gets hurt himself.

Miller likely had the advantage based on this spring alone, as he has collected seven hits in 17 spring at-bats, including two doubles and two home runs. Of course, Miller had an outstanding spring in 2014 before a terrible first two months of the regular season, but his flashes of upside at the plate may have made him the preferred option to Taylor anyway.

However, Taylor was also hitting well in the spring, with eight hits in 19 at-bats, including a home run, a double and two triples. That power is particularly interesting, as Taylor showed little ability to hit anything but singles during his stint in the big leagues last season.

It’s an unlucky injury for Taylor, who also broke a pinkie last May when he was on the cusp of being called up to the majors. While Miller had the advantage for the starting job, Taylor was certainly making the case that he deserved a 25-man roster spot.


Winner: Miller by default


No. 5 Rotation Spot

Although there are a few other candidates, the final rotation spot always felt like it would come down to Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias. With a dominant spring so far, Walker has emerged as the clear front-runner.

In three spring starts, Walker has pitched eight shutout innings while allowing just two hits and one walk and striking out eight. Even if it’s just spring training, Walker is throwing strikes, his fastball is lively and he’s mixing in a changeup better than we’ve seen before.

The stuff appears to be there, but Walker said after Saturday’s outing that he is also improved with maturation, via Greg Johns of MLB.com.

“When I was younger I’d get men on base and I’d get frustrated and try to do so much so they wouldn’t score and it kind of got me in trouble. This year I’m keeping my composure when people get on and just work for ground balls and get the easy outs.”

Elias does have a chance as he as shown he can successfully pitch in the majors for a full season, but Walker’s upside and showing this spring may be too much to ignore. Walker’s potential is looking like it may start to produce some results this season.


Winner: Walker


Lefty Reliever

The Mariners assembled a pile of left-handed pitchers to compete for a bullpen spot to replace Joe Beimel. A couple of them emerged as front-runners to be the second lefty in the bullpen behind Charlie Furbush: Joe Saunders is one of the few candidates with major league experience and has only allowed a .628 OPS against lefties in his career, while the Mariners saw enough in David Rollins to select him in the Rule 5 Draft.

But it’s been unheralded Tyler Olson who has come out of nowhere to become a potential leading candidate. In six spring innings, Olson has allowed just one hit while striking out eight.

Of course, spring stats can be misleading, and Olson is coming off a decent but not great season as a 25-year-old starter at Double-A Jackson. Still, the upside Olson has shown might be enough to win him a roster spot, and he has looked dominant against batters from both sides of the plate.

Farm director Chris Gwynn offered his thoughts on Olson to Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune.

“He has a really good change-up, and he changes eye location. He knows what he’s doing.”

If the event of the Mariners carrying only one left-handed reliever, Carson Smith becomes the clear favorite for the spot.


Winner: Olson


Final Bench Spot

Taylor’s wrist injury also pretty much ends any competition for the final bench spot on Seattle’s roster. Rickie Weeks will make the roster and play some left field and first base, but the Mariners are probably going to want a backup middle infielder who can fill in at other positions in an emergency.

That means it’s going to be Willie Bloomquist, who looked like a prime candidate to be cut just a couple of weeks ago. Bloomquist has proven he has recovered enough from microfracture knee surgery to at least play, collecting three hits in 13 at-bats.

Taylor may have made the roster anyway even if he lost out to Miller. The Mariners could also give the spot to an unappealing outfielder (Stefen Romero, James Jones) or shortstop Ketel Marte, but Bloomquist appears most likely given current roster construction.

When Taylor gets healthy, the Mariners could make a change quickly.


Winner: Bloomquist (for now)

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