Correia aiming for rotation spot with Mariners

Right-hander tosses clean inning in spring debut

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In a dozen previous trips to Spring Training, Kevin Correia had never even been a day late. In fact, he was often early.

That changed this year, his 13th. Correia reported to Arizona 18 days late after a lingering free agency period that ended once he signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners on March 9. And on Tuesday, he finally saw his first game action in the Mariners' 5-5 tie against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

"Usually, I'm complaining Spring Training is too long, so hopefully it won't be that big of a deal," Correia said. "But it definitely feels a little different when you're a few weeks late."

The 34-year-old right-hander tossed a scoreless fifth inning against Chicago. He struck out the first batter, then allowed a single to J.B. Shuck before retiring his next two batters on ground balls.

"It was good," Correia said. "I wasn't sure how it was going to go. That first time out there is kind of just getting your feet wet again in an actual baseball game. So it was good to get out there."

Correia, a 12-year veteran of five different clubs, joins the Mariners after splitting the 2014 season between the Twins and the Dodgers, posting a 7-17 record, a 5.44 ERA and 2.24 strikeout/walk ratio. Though he finished the season pitching out of the Los Angeles bullpen, Correia still envisions himself as a starter going forward.

"That's what I want to do and that's what my focus is," Correia said. "I relieved a little bit last year, but you know, it had been so long. I wasn't really prepared as a reliever. It didn't go that well. I prefer starting, that's my main focus right now."

With the Mariners' starting rotation mostly set, he faces long odds to win a job in that capacity, and that uphill battle isn't helped by his late start. But Correia said he kept busy this offseason by throwing bullpen sessions and working out at home, and he is confident he won't be behind for very long.

"I knew I'd still be a little bit behind," he said, "but hopefully with my experience, I'll be able to catch up quick."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.