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Clement among four optioned to Tacoma

Mariners option four to Tacoma

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- The second significant round of roster cuts for the Mariners includes catcher Jeff Clement.

The former first-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of University of Southern California was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, along with right-handed pitchers Jon Huber and Sean White and left-handed reliever Cesar Jimenez.

"He's not getting enough at-bats here, so he needs to go down and start catching more and getting more at-bats," manager John McLaren said. "We're really happy with him and there's no doubt in my mind he can be a Major League catcher."

The 24-year-old receiver struggled this spring, batting .158 (3-for-19) in 11 Cactus League games. He hit one home run, a solo shot.

Clement's departure leaves three catchers in camp -- Kenji Johjima, Jamie Burke and Rob Johnson. Only Johjima and Burke are expected to open the season on the 25-man roster.

The left-handed setup reliever spot has been virtually clinched by Eric O'Flaherty.

"I think so. Absolutely," McLaren said. "I've always liked Eric. He's a good competitor, did a great job for us last year and it looks like he's improved this year. He should only get better."

O'Flaherty, who was 7-1 with a 4.47 ERA in 56 relief appearances last season, assumes a role fulfilled so well by George Sherrill the past two seasons. So far this spring, O'Flaherty has a 2.84 ERA in six appearances covering 6 1/3 innings.

There is room for improvement on his control, however, as he has walked four and hit a batter.

Jimenez was invited to camp after a sensational Winter League season in Venezuela, posting a 0.87 ERA. He has a 6.23 ERA after five appearances this spring.

"He needs a better breaking ball," McLaren said. "For him to get left-handed hitters out, he's gotta throw a better breaking ball. He has a good fastball, he uses both sides of the plate, has a nice change-up, which will get right-hand hitters out, but he needs to counter with a good breaking ball against left-handers."

Jimenez will continue to develop a breaking pitch with Tacoma.

"It's going to be an ongoing process, probably a lot of experimenting with the grip," McLaren said.

After Wednesday night's game, third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo and left-handed pitcher Philip Barzilla were reassigned to the Minor League camp.

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

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