Outlook: Paxton needs to limit walks, improve control

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Of the 10 or 11 potential starting-pitching options in Mariners camp, only two -- James Paxton and Randy Wolf -- are left-handed. And neither is anything near a lock at a rotation berth. But that fact doesn't concern new skipper Lloyd McClendon.

McClendon says if the rotation turns out to be five right-handers, that's no problem at all, as long as they're the five best pitchers in the bunch.

"Just to have a lefty to have a lefty, that's no good," McClendon said Saturday on the third day of the pitchers and catchers' portion of camp. "Ideally you'd like to have one and possibly two. But they have to be good. They've got to be able to get guys out.

"On a scale of 1-to-10, it's probably a one if they can't get anybody out. If they get 'em out, then it's a 10," he said with a laugh.

McClendon is just sorting through the 36 pitchers in camp. A day after he listed eight or nine potential starting candidates, he acknowledged that he left young right-hander Brandon Maurer out of the previous list.

"I threw names out there and it's probably unfair of me because I don't have that roster set yet," he said. "But he's certainly in the mix. This guy has tremendous stuff and power type of stuff. He's a swing guy, but I'd probably view him more as a starter."

Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are the only certain starters, with fellow right-handers Taijuan Walker, Scott Baker, Matt Palmer, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and Maurer in the hunt, along with Paxton and Wolf from the left side.

Paxton was outstanding in four September starts last season, but that is his only Major League experience. Wolf, 37, is a 14-year Major League veteran and was a 2003 All-Star with the Phillies, but he's coming off Tommy John surgery and didn't pitch at all in '13.

Cano signing allows Ackley to focus on outfield work

Outlook: Ackley on verge of long-awaited breakout

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dustin Ackley arrived in Mariners camp Saturday, sporting his full beard and the new knowledge that he's now a full-time outfielder.

After Ackley transitioned from second base to the outfield at midseason last year, the club talked of him continuing in something of a utility role -- a guy who could play several positions. But that changed a bit when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano, who figures to hold down the second-base job for years to come.

Ackley admitted he was surprised, pleasantly so, when the club signed Cano. Now he knows exactly where he'll compete this spring, and he was already in the outfield Saturday, shagging balls as teammates hit batting practice.

"Yeah, it definitely does help," Ackley said. "Knowing second base is kind of off limits right now definitely gives you peace of mind that, well, I'll be in the outfield. So it's a good thing.

"I'd already kind of focused on the outfield anyway. I still have second base in the back of my mind, just because you never know what could happen. Injuries, or [Cano] gets a day off or DHs, I still have to be ready at any time. So I definitely still have that in the back of my mind. But for sure, the outfield is top priority, no question. Center, left, I'll be ready for wherever they want me to be."

Ackley spent the offseason hitting and throwing in his own indoor facility on his 140-acre property in Lapeer, Mich., with an extra focus on preparing his throwing arm more for outfield work.

He and his wife rented an RV last week and drove from Michigan to Arizona with their two dogs, spending five days visiting relatives and seeing the country before settling in for the long haul of the baseball season.

After leading the Mariners with a .304 batting average after the All-Star break, the 25-year-old -- he turns 26 on Feb. 26 -- just wants to keep that momentum rolling into the new season.

"I'm ready," he said. "I've been looking forward to this, for sure. It seemed like the offseason just flew by. No surgeries during the offseason, no delays getting working out or anything. I feel as ready as I've ever been."

With Ackley's arrival, the only players on the 40-man roster who are not in camp yet are Cano, Nick Franklin and outfielder Abraham Almonte. Position players don't officially report for physicals until Monday, and the first full-squad workout is Tuesday.

Furbush welcomes Arizona sun after winter in Maine

TB@SEA: Furbush starts double play with bases loaded

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After a winter in snow-bound Portland, Maine, left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush is among the Mariners players most enjoying the warm sun and mid-80s temperatures as Spring Training gets underway.

Furbush arrived in Peoria a week ago and immediately threw his arms open, welcoming the warm rays of sunshine and the ability to throw outdoors again after several months of playing catch and working out in an indoor soccer facility.

"We had that polar vortex came through and we had some crazy cold weather with negative temperatures," Furbush said. "The wind chill got to like negative 25 and I didn't even want to go outside for awhile."

Furbush couldn't get out of Maine due to weather-related flight cancellations in January, when he was scheduled to participate in the Mariners Caravan around the Northwest, and eventually hooked up with the Caravan a week later.

But Furbush is true to his northeastern roots and returns every offseason to his home in South Portland, which he says is a lot like Seattle, just on the opposite coast and corner of the country.

"People always ask me, 'Why do you go to Maine? It's so cold,'" he said. "But that's where it all started, it works for me and I can do everything I need to do to get ready. Luckily for me, I can just get on a plane, snap the fingers and here I am in nice weather. It's a nice transition and I definitely enjoy getting out here."

Furbush threw his first bullpen session Friday and said he felt great. New manager Lloyd McClendon knows Furbush from when the southpaw was coming up in the Tigers' organization and has already spoken highly of his lefty reliever several times.

"He's funky," McClendon said. "He's tall, lanky, coming across his body. If I was left-handed, I don't know if I'd want to face him. I saw him when he pitched against us, too. He was pretty good."

And McClendon's presence is another reason the southpaw is smiling this spring.

"I love him," Furbush said. "He's a great guy, a great person to be around. So much positive energy and a winning mentality he's bringing. I was pretty excited when he got the job. I heard he was in the running, so for him to get it and have some of the other Tigers staff come with him, it's great. That's where it all started for me and now it comes back. So it's nice to have that connection and have the relationship continue."

Worth noting

• Catcher Jesus Sucre, who exited Friday's bullpen session after getting hit in the ankle with an errant pitch, was back to work Saturday without any issues.

• The Mariners' first Cactus League game is Feb. 27 against the Padres, but McClendon said he'll hold an intrasquad game on Feb. 25 on one of the Peoria Sports Complex practice fields to get players warmed up for game action.