Sardinas trying to add new glove to toolbox

Utility player learning first base to increase versatility

Sardinas trying to add new glove to toolbox

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Luis Sardinas' development as a utility player will take another dimension in the final week of camp as the 22-year-old figures to get some playing time at first base, Mariners manager Scott Servais said Sunday.

Sardinas played at first base in a Minor League game on Saturday, and that experiment will continue in limited amounts during Cactus League games in order to give Seattle some defensive late-game options.

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The club added Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee to its 40-man roster prior to an opt-out in his contract Sunday, meaning Lee likely will win the backup first-base job behind Adam Lind. But at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Lee doesn't have much speed and Sardinas could fill in as a pinch-runner if needed in key situations.

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"There'll be things that come up, if he does end up making our club, where if you're going to pinch-run him or things like that, where he's coming off the bench, it just gives you an option and make him comfortable over there," Servais said. "He's a very good athlete and has a very good internal clock. He's a good baseball player. For a guy that young, he has a really good feel."

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Sardinas has played strictly second, short and third in his pro career before working a few games in center field in the last two weeks. Now, he'll add another glove to his arsenal, if he can handle first base in a pinch.

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Sardinas played third base in Sunday's 12-9 win over the Cubs, made several fine plays defensively and went 0-for-2 with two walks and two runs to put his spring average at .333.

Worth noting

• Non-roster invitee Donn Roach threw two more perfect innings and lowered his spring ERA to 1.15 against the Cubs as he continues making a bid for a bullpen role.

"Again he gets the game back on a normal pace and put some zeros up there for us," Servais said. "He's got a ton of confidence. He's throwing all his pitches over for strikes, setting up hitters and very, very aggressive. He continues to roll and it's fun to watch him pitch right now."

• Servais saw some positives in starter James Paxton's rough Sunday outing: "I thought his stuff was pretty good early in the game. He elevated some balls and the home run obviously hurt him today. Not his finest outing, but I did think his stuff was better."

• Servais confirmed that Taijuan Walker will be the No. 4 starter, which lines him up to pitch the home opener April 8 against the A's.

Felix Hernandez will make his final Cactus League start on Wednesday against the Padres in a 12:10 p.m. PT game in Peoria and will throw 2-3 innings as the Mariners dial back their ace prior to his Opening Day start on April 4 in Texas.

Hisashi Iwakuma will also throw 2-3 innings in his final spring appearance, which will be in a Minor League game on Thursday, the Mariners' last off-day. That lines Iwakuma up to pitch the second game of the regular season on April 5 at Texas.

• Right-handed setup man Joaquin Benoit has pitched just once in the last two weeks after first dealing with a sore back and then illness, but Servais again said the 39-year-old knows how to prepare himself for the regular season.

"He'd been battling the flu as well, said," Servais said. "But shoulder- and arm-wise, physically, when he gets on the mound, he's been OK. He's fine."

• The flu bug going around Mariners camp has cleared the clubhouse, but hit the broadcast crew. Executive producer Kevin Cremin says he called in sick for the first time in 34 years when missing two games earlier in the week. Cremin was back Sunday, but Rick Rizzs was sidelined, leaving Aaron Goldsmith calling Sunday's game by himself.

In an unrelated development, former Mariners pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith will be working with the broadcast crew the next three games, from Monday through Wednesday.

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.