Green on schedule as season nears

Reliever Green on schedule as season nears

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When it comes to pitching in Cactus League games, it's more the merrier for Mariners reliever Sean Green.

"A lot of guys want to be well-rested when the regular season begins," he said. "Not me."

A little fatigue actually is a good thing for a sinkerball specialist like Green. The more work he gets, the more tired he gets, and the more sink his sinker gets.

"I'm always a little bit out of whack at the beginning of camp because my arm feels so fresh, but I'm starting to settle into my natural arm slot," Green said. "The first couple of outings are always kind of rough because the ball doesn't move as much as when I'm a little tired. The more pitches I throw, the better it gets."

As Spring Training winds down, the right-hander feels he's right on schedule for the regular season, which begins March 31 at Safeco Field against the Rangers. He has worked on an every-other-day schedule the past two times out, and done well each time, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks last Wednesday night and two more against the Royals on Friday afternoon.

After what happened to him on March 15, he needed something positive.

On that day, during a brief relief outing against the Giants, Green retired just one batter. Four hits and a walk led to six earned runs.

"One of those days," he sighed.

Fortunately, those days were rare last season for Green, who was selected by manager John McLaren and the coaching staff as the team's Unsung Hero after posting a 5-2 record and 3.84 ERA in 64 relief appearances.

"I don't know where would have been without him the first half of last season," McLaren said. "When he came up, he was the man."

Green rode the Tacoma Shuttle three times in April and May before joining the team for good on May 23. His 61 appearances from that date to the end of the season were the most in the American League during that time frame.

He could be even busier this season.

A virtual lock to participate in his first Opening Day ceremony in the Major Leagues, the 28-year-old also could find himself as the primary right-handed setup man for closer J.J. Putz.

That job was supposed to be filled -- and still might be -- by right-hander Brandon Morrow. But a sore right shoulder this spring has interfered with Morrow's work schedule and his status for the start of the season is up in the air.

Morrow had a bullpen session on Friday and is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Sunday, his first outing since March 10. His health is directly related to Green's role in the bullpen.

With the entire season more important than the first week, the Mariners would err on the side of caution with Morrow.

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"We're looking for Opening Day, but you've got to look at the big picture," McLaren said. "We certainly don't want to rush anybody just to come out March 31. If he breaks down Week 1 or Week 2, we haven't accomplished one thing. We haven't accomplished anything as an organization and it sure isn't helping our players."

If Morrow is physically unable to answer the opening bell, McLaren said Green "would be a good candidate" as the eighth-inning setup man.

That is just one of the decisions that must be made between now and Opening Day.

"We're still not sure about the bench jobs and whether to go with an 11- or 12-man pitching staff," McLaren said Saturday morning during his daily media session. "There's still a lot of competition in the bullpen and there's a lot of thought over what we need to do there. There are the 'rehab guys' [Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes and Mark Lowe] and Morrow. We need to find out who can do what, who can't do what.

"We're going to have to sort this out a little at a time and see where we are. We don't want to paint ourselves into a corner with innings available in the bullpen. We've got to look at the big picture and see what we've got to do to protect ourselves."

McLaren wants to have the 25-man roster set by Thursday, when the Mariners play a split doubleheader -- one team in San Francisco for a night game against the Giants and the other in Peoria in a day game against the Padres.

Spring Training ends in Las Vegas with games against the Cubs on Friday and Saturday.

"I don't know what we can do over the weekend that we won't know by the middle of the week," McLaren said. "I just don't know what a weekend series in Vegas playing the slot machines will do for us. We should know when we hit that plane exactly where we are."

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