Korean slugger Lee earns 40-man roster spot

Mariners impressed with athleticsm, ability to make transition

Korean slugger Lee earns 40-man roster spot

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee was added to the Mariners' 40-man roster on Sunday prior to an opt-out in the contract he signed in February, meaning it's likely the 33-year-old has won the backup first-base job.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said "there is a good chance" Lee will be on the Mariners' Opening Day roster, though Sunday's decision only involved placing him on the 40-man Major League roster.

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The Mariners also informed veteran right-handed reliever Joel Peralta, another non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal, that he'll be added to the 40-man roster as well, though technically that won't happen until a spot is cleared.

Dipoto said there'd be no word on first baseman Jesus Montero's situation until Monday. Montero left camp on Saturday and his locker is now cleared out, which indicates the club is likely waiting to see if he clears the 48-hour waiver window before finalizing his status.

Lee, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder who hit 31 home runs in Japan last year, showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the club, according to Dipoto. The veteran has struggled at times against quality pitching in Cactus League games, but the Mariners feel he'll be fine at the plate, and he answered their questions in other areas by showing some surprising athleticism for a big man.

Lee's quick throw

Lee and Stefen Romero are the two remaining right-handed-hitting options at first base to platoon with lefty Adam Lind. Romero has had a strong camp, but he does have a Minor League option remaining.

"Dae-Ho has the history of hitting left-handers and I think he's given us reason to believe in Spring Training," Dipoto said. "He's very prepared, very calm in the batter's box and I think he's gotten better every step of the way as we've gone along.

"It's been a pleasant surprise -- the defense and particularly the baserunning. He runs the bases really smart. His defense has been much better than we anticipated at first base and we do have confidence in his history of handling left-handed pitching, which is the role we're trying to fill."

Peralta, who just turned 40, earned a spot in the bullpen after an injury-shortened 2015 with the Dodgers when he posted a 4.34 ERA in 33 outings. He has a career 3.94 ERA in 589 outings for six different teams.

"Joel is a gamer," Dipoto said. "He makes a difference in our clubhouse. I think Joel is a leader in the bullpen. He also showed physically, he's been 90-92 [mph] all spring and his split-finger is a weapon. He's a guy who gets righties and lefties out, kind of a reverse splits type, and especially in a bullpen that is going to start without Charlie Furbush, the idea that a Joel Peralta is capable of coming in and getting the better left-handed hitters in the league and having strikeout stuff really helps."

Dipoto said he's not sure how soon Furbush might be ready as the lefty will be undergoing a non-surgical medical procedure soon to help alleviate tightness in his throwing shoulder.

"Our hope is, once we get him out there, he can stay out there, and we're not in a rush for that to be Opening Day or April 15," Dipoto said. "We'd just like it to be sooner rather than later."

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.