SEATTLE -- Looking to add some balance to his lefty-dominated lineup, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasted no time getting new outfielder Cole Gillespie into action as the former Oregon State standout replaced Dustin Ackley in left field for Friday's series-opening game against the Rangers.
Gillespie was called up Thursday after hitting .362 in 16 games for Triple-A Tacoma and McClendon immediately penciled the right-handed hitter in against southpaw Robbie Ross Jr.
"We have a lot of lefties coming up and obviously it gives us a little better balance," McClendon said prior to Friday's game. "He had a good spring, he's been playing well down there. We're just trying to balance out that lineup a little more."
The 29-year-old hit .433 with seven RBIs in 17 Cactus League games, but was sent down when the Mariners opted to go with youngsters Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero along with veterans Corey Hart, Michael Saunders and Ackley in their original outfield group.
But Hart has played mostly a designated hitter, leaving Romero and the switch-hitting Almonte as the only right-handed outfield options. With the team looking to get regular playing time for Nick Franklin, the 22-year-old infielder was sent down and Gillespie got the call.
"He swung the bat extremely well this spring," McClendon said. "The numbers caught him a little bit and we just didn't have the room. Right now we're trying to play with the roster and get the right fit. This guy was swinging the bat well down there, so hopefully he'll continue to stay hot up here."
Gillespie has had brief Major League stints with the D-backs, Giants and Cubs over the past four years, hitting .225 in 78 games. He signed a Minor League deal with Seattle in January.
"When I signed, the roster was pretty left-hand oriented," Gillespie said. "I knew talking with them they'd probably go out and try to get some right-handed bats, but at the same time I felt this was going to be a good spot for me. Being from the Northwest and growing up in Portland, all things being equal with another team, I was going to choose the Mariners. So far it's working out."
Luetge back for another bullpen stint
SEATTLE -- Just three and a half weeks into the season, Lucas Luetge has already been sent down to Triple-A Tacoma and recalled twice now as the Mariners added the left-handed reliever to their roster again on Friday.
Luetge, 27, started the season in Triple-A, but then was called up on April 9 to provide an extra bullpen option when James Paxton went on the 15-day disabled list. He was optioned back to Tacoma five days later, but now has been added again to fill the spot created by Erasmo Ramirez's demotion.
Luetge spent all of his rookie season in 2012 on the Major League roster as a Rule 5 Draft Pick, but split last season between Seattle and Tacoma as well with three different stints. So he understands the process.
"This drive is a lot easier for me," Luetge said with a grin. "We're living on Mercer Island, so it's five minutes to here and 40 minutes to Tacoma. But I'm just glad to be back. I'm glad they keep calling me."
Luetge made two appearances in his earlier stint with the Mariners, allowing two runs on one hit and one walk over one combined inning of work. He was 1-0 with a save and a 5.79 ERA (three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) in four outings with Tacoma, striking out six with one walk.
"Considering who we're facing and where we're going, it just made sense with the days off to bring up another bullpen arm that gives us help," said manager Lloyd McClendon.
Luetge gives the Mariners a third lefty reliever along with Charlie Furbush and Joe Beimel. The club can carry an extra reliever for now as they go with just four starters following Thursday's off-day, with another day off Monday before starting a nine-day, 10-game trip to New York, Houston and Oakland.
Paxton plays catch for first time since injury
SEATTLE -- Rookie left-hander James Paxton played catch at 45 feet with pitching coach Rick Waits on Friday in his initial step back from a strained lat muscle that has sidelined him since April 8.
Paxton went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his first two starts, but had to come out of his second outing after feeling tightness behind his left shoulder.
The 25-year-old Canadian said all went well with his initial throwing session and he'll be re-evaluated Saturday.
"It actually felt fine," Paxton said. "I was letting it go pretty good from a 45-foot distance. I didn't want to light up Waits, so I just kept it nice and easy, just making sure I could stay fluid. It felt good, so it was positive."
Paxton said he'll throw again from 45 or 60 feet if he feels fine on Saturday, then will sit down with the training staff and put together a throwing program to rebuild his arm strength before eventually going out on a Minor League rehab stint.
"It's tough not to get too excited, but you just have to take it easy and trust the process and just take it one day at a time," he said.
Teammate Taijuan Walker is scheduled to begin throwing Monday as he's on a similar return after being shut down with an impingement in his right shoulder that put a halt to his Minor League rehab stint.
Blake Beavan is also awaiting word on when he can start throwing again after going on the 15-day DL with right-shoulder tendinitis after he lasted just four innings when he was called up to replace Paxton on April 15.
"The plan so far is to start throwing next week and then when the team gets back from the road, start throwing bullpens and see how I react to that," said Beavan, who hopes to be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment sometime in mid-to-late May if all goes well.
• The promotion of outfielder Cole Gillespie gives the Mariners two former Oregon State Beavers on their 25-man roster, the other being rookie outfielder Stefen Romero. The Rangers also just traded for former OSU outfielder Daniel Robertson and added him to their roster, putting three of the five former OSU players in the Majors at Safeco Field together on Friday night.
The other two are Cubs infielder Darwin Barney and Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
• Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon said Nick Franklin will get a chance now for regular at-bats in Triple-A Tacoma after being sent down Thursday, while working some in the outfield as well as second, shortstop and third base. "We want him to play every day, but play a lot of different positions," McClendon said.