SEATTLE -- Promising young pitching prospects Michael Pineda, Josh Lueke and Mauricio Robles were among 10 players promoted to the Mariners' 40-man roster Friday as the club moved to protect itself from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Players who have been in the Minor League system for four or five years (depending on whether they were drafted out of high school or college) can be taken by other teams in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 9 unless they're protected on the 40-man roster.
Thus the Mariners, who came into the day with only 29 players on their Major League roster, made a flurry of promotions at Friday's deadline.
Also moved to the 40-man roster were pitchers Maikel Cleto, Cesar Jimenez, Yoervis Medina and Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielders Johermyn Chavez and Carlos Peguero and infielder Alex Liddi.
"We're pleased with this," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "It shows there is some strength with our young kids. We're looking forward to their contributions either this year or the near future."
Pineda, 21, is the top prospect among the promoted group. He was the Mariners' Minor League Pitcher of the Year after splitting time between Double-A West Tenn (8-1, 2.22 ERA) and Triple-A Tacoma (3-3, 4.76).
The 6-foot-5, 243-pounder from the Dominican Republic will be given a chance to crack the Mariners' rotation this spring. But Pineda isn't the only one who'll likely get a shot in the near future.
"You never know," Zduriencik said. "When players roll into Spring Training, it'll be interesting to see how they adjust. These players are talented. They wouldn't be put on the 40-man if they weren't.
"We have our hopes and expectations. They'll get a chance to get their feet wet and cut their teeth with what we think might be a really good opportunity to make our ballclub," he said. "They'll get their chance."
Not all the Mariners' top prospects are on the list. Infielder Carlos Triunfel, one of the Mariners' highly regarded youngsters, just finished his fourth year in the system and won't be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft until next year, for instance.
In addition to Pineda, pitchers dominated the young group. Robles, 21, went 9-7 with a 3.99 ERA in 27 starts with West Tenn and Tacoma. Acquired from Detroit in the Jarrod Washburn trade, he tied Pineda for the most strikeouts in the Mariners' Minor League system last season with 154 in 142 innings.
Lueke, 25, posted a 5-2 record with a 1.86 ERA in 50 relief appearances split between the Mariners and Rangers Minor League systems. He was obtained in the Cliff Lee deal and went 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA with West Tenn and Tacoma.
Cleto, 21, went 4-9 with a 6.16 ERA in 23 games with Class A Advanced High Desert. He was acquired two seasons ago as part of the 11-player trade that brought Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas to the Mariners.
Jimenez, 26, missed all of '09 with a torn labrum, but returned to post a 1-0 record and 0.60 ERA in 15 innings of work with the Arizona League Mariners and West Tenn this season.
Medina, 22, went 9-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 15 starts between Class A Short-Season Everett, Class A Clinton and Tacoma. The 6-foot-3 Venezuelan struck out 94 batters in 82 1/3 innings.
Wilhelmsen, 26, signed with Seattle as a Minor League free agent in February after being out of baseball for six years. He went 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 74 innings between the Arizona League Mariners, Everett and Clinton.
The other promotions went to position players. Chavez, 21, finished second in the Class A California League with 32 home runs while hitting .315 with 96 RBIs. The 6-foot-3 outfielder was acquired along with Brandon League in the Brandon Morrow trade.
Liddi, 22, was named West Tenn's Player of the Year after leading the Southern League with 92 RBIs while hitting .281 with 15 home runs. The third baseman out of Italy was selected to the Futures Game and was a Southern League All-Star.
Peguero, 23, led the Southern League with 23 home runs while hitting .254 with 73 RBIs for West Tenn. He's a 6-5, 247-pound outfielder from the Dominican.
Wilhelmsen is one of the interesting stories. Out of baseball since 2003, the former Brewers seventh-round Draft pick signed with Seattle last year and performed extremely well.
"His history is interesting," Zduriencik said. "You have to give him a lot of credit for what he accomplished in a short period of time. He's a big kid with a strong arm and we value his talent enough to put him on the 40-man roster."