Servais settling on rotation for opening series

Manager tabs Iwakuma, Miley as likely starters after Felix

Servais settling on rotation for opening series

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mariners skipper Scott Servais acknowledged Thursday that veterans Hisashi Iwakuma and Wade Miley will likely follow Felix Hernandez in Seattle's rotation for the season-opening series against the Rangers in Arlington, though he left the door open for Taijuan Walker to crack that group.

Servais said he "expects" Iwakuma to be the No. 2 starter on April 5 in Texas after Hernandez makes his ninth Opening Day start on April 4. Iwakuma isn't currently scheduled to make any more Cactus League appearances, but will instead pitch Minor League games on Saturday and next Thursday and then be in line for his regular-season debut.

As for Miley, who was acquired in December from the Red Sox, being the third starter in the afternoon series finale on April 6?

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

"Yeah, I think that's kind of what we are leaning toward," Servais said. "Things can change. We do have options based on off-days. We could flip it around if we wanted to. Walker has been throwing the ball great, too. And at some point we will have a fifth starter."

Miley fans Marte in the 2nd

If Walker doesn't pitch against Texas, he'd start the home opener April 8 against the A's at Safeco Field. The second game of that Oakland series is the question mark at this point as James Paxton and Nathan Karns continue competing for the final rotation berth, with both struggling in their most recent Cactus League appearances.

Paxton pitched better in a Minor League outing on Tuesday, but Karns was hit hard and lasted just 2 1/3 innings in a 13-12 loss to the A's on Wednesday.

Paxton's nice outing

"You want guys to go out and throw the ball well and feel good about themselves," Servais said. "Obviously it was not a great night [Wednesday] night, but that's kind of just where we are at. It doesn't do any good to fret about it. And just talking to the players and letting them know what we are seeing and giving them feedback and more importantly listening to them.

"That's what I did this morning. I listened to Nate Karns. He wants to do well. He's coming to a new club and wants to get off to a new start. It's not always perfect. He'll be fine."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Ketel Marte was the latest Mariner sidelined by a flu bug that has been going through camp. Marte was scratched from Thursday's lineup and replaced by Shawn O'Malley. Franklin Gutierrez rejoined the team after missing several days, but won't play until Friday at the earliest.

O'Malley's RBI double

• Utility infielder Luis Sardinas was tied for third among all hitters in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues with 14 RBIs after his grand slam in Wednesday's loss. The 22-year-old is hitting .375 (18-for-48) with 10 runs, four doubles, a triple and two homers and is tied for sixth in the Majors with his 18 hits.

Sardinas' grand slam

• Right-hander Donn Roach has bolstered his bid for a bullpen spot by throwing strikes this spring. The 26-year-old non-roster invitee has 13 strikeouts and no walks in 13 2/3 innings with a 1.32 ERA over six outings. Originally ticketed for a starting role in Triple-A Tacoma, Roach is being considered a possible relief candidate after injuries and attrition to several of the veteran right-handers in camp.

Roach pitched 16 games (one start) for the Padres in 2014, and made one start last year for the Cubs, posting a combined 5.35 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. He was 7-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 15 starts for the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa club last year.

• Nate Boyer, a former long snapper for the University of Texas who served in the Green Berets in Afghanistan and was in training camp last season with the Seahawks, will speak to the Mariners in their morning meeting on Friday.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.