With 10 games left to play several roster spots remain in competition. And some of the competition appears to be wide open. Here how things look, at least right now:
- Back up / RH 1b The righty first baseman opposite Adam Lind was to be either Doe-Ho Lee or Jesus Montero. This could be the end of Montero’s M’s days. He appears to be out of this race and is out of minor league options. However, Stefen Romero, figures here as an adequate first baseman, back up outfielder and a pretty solid hitter. If the M’s are comfortable with Romero’s glove play he could well be the guy. Lee has showed well, especially on the defensively. He has shown much better hands and overall D than was anticipated. If Lee is NOT signed by the end of March he can opt out and become a free agent.
- Back up catcher. The back up to starter Chris Iannetta was expected to be Steve Clevenger. That is probably still the case but the play of Rob Brantly has changed things a little. Brantly, claimed from the White Sox has made this more competitive than expected.
- Fifth Starter The Karns – Paxton competition for the #5 rotation spot has been pretty even all spring. Both have shown positives and both occasional inconsistency. It is easy to just state Karns has mostly pitched better this spring but Paxton has the greater upside. The fact Paxton is a lefty could easily be a tie breaker. The four starters set now are RH Felix, Kuma and Walker. Miley is the only lefty in that first four. All things being otherwise equal the M’s may simply decide two left handers in the rotation are much more desirable that only one. Watching this play out will be interesting.
- Utility infielder The utility infielder may well be determined by how ell the individual plays short and the outfield. Shawn O’Malley has been the poster boy for Dipoto Ball. “Controlling the zone” in every way the switch hitter has hit, stolen bases (sucessfully) walked, on and on. BUT he has not convinced his coaches he can play any significant stretch at short. That seems to be the prime limiting factor for Shawn. Luis Sardinas appears to have the inside track. Among other abilities he has shown he CAN play shortstop for an extended time. Chris Taylor is a know commodity who can certainly play short and the other infield spots as required. Taylor has fallen short offensively in several opportunities in the majors. The wild card here is Ketel Marte. The presumed starting shortstop has struggled this spring at the plate. It would not be shocking to see him start at Tacoma. Or not.
- Bullpen – this is being sorted out over the remaining eleven days. The decision making may be driven more by calendar days than innings pitched. Charlie Fubush is getting healthy but is NOT expected to be ready on day one, maybe day three or four but not day one. His recovery alone will affect several bull pen spots. Others on the mend may be a little later to return. At the same time starter, left hander Mike Montgomery continues his transition from starter to reliever. His success adding a LH to the mix would be difference-maker. Expect the bullpen to be at least somewhat unsettled into the first week of April.
That is where things are. Mangers and GM’s usually have ideas about who they like and who the front runners are in these competitions. No reason to think it is any different here. BUT if Dipoto has really made up his mind on any of these spots he is not turning his cards over. Not yet.