Aoki optioned as Mariners bolster bullpen

Altavilla, Venditte expected to be added before Saturday's game

Aoki optioned as Mariners bolster bullpen

CHICAGO -- While his teammates celebrated Friday's 3-1 victory over the White Sox on Friday night, veteran left fielder Norichika Aoki quietly dealt with Mariners officials and then made some phone calls after being informed he was being optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma.

Aoki will be one of several roster moves announced by the Mariners on Saturday as they look to shore up a bullpen that was already running a man short and now is dealing with a sore back by Tom Wilhelmsen as well.

Aoki and utility man Mike Freeman will be optioned to Tacoma on Saturday, assuming third baseman Kyle Seager gets the green light to return to the lineup after missing three games with a bruised right foot. Seager's return makes Freeman expendable as he was only needed in case of an injury to Shawn O'Malley, who filled In for Seager the past three games.

Those moves will allow the Mariners to call up a pair of relievers. One will be Dan Altavilla, a 23-year-old right-hander who is 7-3 with 16 saves and a 1.91 ERA in 43 outings for Double-A Jackson. Altavilla is the Mariners' 22nd-ranked prospect according to

Pat Venditte, the switch-throwing reliever acquired by trade from the Blue Jays earlier this month, is also expected to be added after posting a 1.08 ERA with 11 strikeouts and three walks in 8 1/3 innings over his first five appearances for Triple-A Tacoma.

If Wilhelmsen needs to go on the DL, that will open a path for the return of right-handed-hitting first baseman Dae-Ho Lee, whose bat could be used against southpaw starters the next two games by the White Sox.

Lee has hit .519 in 27 at-bats for Tacoma in seven games since being optioned, but he can't be recalled until Monday unless he's replacing someone going on the disabled list. Lee had two hits in his first three at-bats in Tacoma's game at Reno on Friday, but was removed for a pinch runner in the sixth inning.

Aoki didn't play in Friday's game as right-handed hitting Guillermo Heredia started in left field against southpaw Chris Sale. The White Sox are also starting left-handers in the final two games of the series this weekend.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.