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03/02/10 6:25 PM EST

Fister to start in Mariners' spring opener

Right-hander vying for fifth spot in rotation

PEORIA, Ariz. -- One of the most compelling competitions of Spring Training begins on Wednesday afternoon when right-hander Doug Fister delivers the first pitch of the Mariners' Cactus League schedule.

The 26-year-old control artist is slated to toss the first two innings in the Mariners' 12:05 p.m. PT game against the Giants at Peoria Stadium -- the first time since the Mariners and Padres began sharing the stadium in 1994 that the spring opener is not the annual Charity Game, which will be played on Thursday and, for the first time, count in the Cactus League standings.

Also scheduled to pitch are right-handers Kanekoa Texeira , Ricky Orta, David Pauley, Mike Koplove and Jesús Colomé and left-hander Chris Seddon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 710.

"You start to look at the dynamics of your lineup with certain guys," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Obviously, with Ichiro [Suzuki] and [Chone] Figgins, we will play those guys together every chance we get.

"For the first week, I told the guys that we would probably go on an every-other-day schedule. You will probably see a semblance of our starting lineup every other day."

Ichiro and Figgins will bat first and second in the Cactus League opener, followed by Milton Bradley, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Lopez (at third base), Casey Kotchman, Eric Byrnes (center field), Adam Moore and Jack Wilson.

Rob Johnson, the projected first-string catcher, probably will be held out of games for the first week.

Wakamatsu said the regulars probably would start the final 10 spring games.

Every outing Fister makes this spring could have a bearing on whether he is part of the five-man rotation when the regular season opens on April 5 against the Athletics in Oakland.

"I've been working the whole offseason looking to get back in here and start rolling again," Fister said on Tuesday. "I have the same goal the first day out and any day I pitch; keep the ball down and divide the plate into thirds, work on location and mix it up."

Fister started last season at Double-A West Tennessee and methodically worked his way up the Minor League ladder, arriving in the big leagues on Aug. 8. He made his MLB debut that night against the Rays and made his first start three nights later against the White Sox.

It was quite a debut.

Fister held the Sox to one hit and no runs over six innings, but had to settle for a no-decision. The Fresno State product faced the Yankees in his second career start and notched the first of his three wins for the Mariners.

He posted a 3-4 record and 4.13 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) with Seattle, striking out 36 and walking 15 in 61 innings.

"There were some emotional ups and downs and I learned more from the downs," he said. "Everybody wants to be the same guy on his best day every time, but it's the bad days that make you who you are."

Right now, he's one of at last four pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the rotation. Left-handers Jason Vargas, Luke French and Garrett Olson all started at least one game for the Mariners last season and have hopes of landing a spot on the 11- or 12-man pitching staff.

"For me, I am just focusing on what I have to do and the rest will take care of itself," Fister said. "If there is a spot in the rotation meant for me, great."

The Mariners had a 16-18 Cactus League record last season, manager Don Wakamatsu's first, but started the regular season with seven wins in their first nine games.

With ace right-hander Felix Hernandez having a breakout season (19-5, 2.49 ERA) and left-hander Cliff Lee acquired via a trade with the Phillies, the Mariners are expected to compete for their first playoff appearance since 2001.

Both hurlers threw bullpen sessions on Tuesday and will throw in a simulated game on Friday. Their Cactus League debuts have not been finalized.

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