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04/02/12 4:49 PM ET

Vacancy in 'pen gives hope to young southpaws

PEORIA, Ariz. -- At the start of Spring Training, there were 10 left-handed relievers working in Mariners camp. After going much of 2011 without a lefty specialist, general manager Jack Zduriencik loaded up on that spot in search of a reliable option.

But as the roster has been reduced, the southpaws have shortened over the past few weeks, to the point where only George Sherrill, Charlie Furbush and Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge are still among the 28 players remaining on the Major League roster.

Former Dodgers All-Star Hong-Chih Kuo didn't make the cut. Neither did former Mets starter Oliver Perez or Cesar Jimenez, who pitched for Seattle at the end of last season. Also sent packing to the Minor League camp: Mauricio Robles, Steve Garrison, Philippe Valiquette and Sean Henn.

Sherrill has figured all along as the primary lefty in the bullpen after signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal as a free agent, but he was slowed initially by a tender elbow and acknowledged after a rough outing in Japan that the arm is still not quite right.

So it'll be interesting to see whether the Mariners keep an extra lefty when they cut to their final 25-man roster by Wednesday before heading to Oakland to resume this unusual start to the regular season.

Furbush, acquired from the Tigers in the Doug Fister deal last July, has options remaining and could be sent to Triple-A Tacoma without being exposed to waivers. But he also has been very good this spring with a 1.17 ERA in six outings, allowing just one run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts.

"I've been feeling good," said the 25-year-old. "I'm taking it one day at a time and seeing what happens. It's up to them, so you can't worry about it. You just go out and do your thing on the mound, just try to do the best you can and hopefully make the decision harder on them."

Luetge, 25, will definitely require a tough decision for the Mariners. As a Rule 5 player, he must either be kept on the 25-man roster the entire season or offered back to the Brewers for $25,000. Or the two teams could work out a trade if Seattle wants to keep him, but not take up a Major League roster spot all year.

Early in camp, it seemed unlikely Luetge would survive the numbers game, having never pitched above Double-A ball with the Brewers. But he kept impressing the coaching staff, kept getting hitters out, and indeed was one of the 30 players who made the trip to Japan.

"I'm still here, so I'm not complaining, I know that," he said Monday. "I'm just hanging on. We're leaving here in two days, so I'll know more then."

This has been Luetge's first big league camp and he came in eyes wide open. Even now, looking back, the memory he figures will stick out came his first day.

"When we were out there stretching with everybody and you look over and see Ichiro and Felix and all those guys, it kind of becomes a reality that you're with them," he said. "All through the Minor Leagues and as a kid, you grew up watching these guys. So it's kind of cool seeing them on the same field. Then Griffey comes walking in the locker room ..."

The Texas native has come a long way in the past seven weeks.

"I came in here a little rough, just getting adjusted," he said. "I wasn't exactly being myself, just because I was trying to be here, but stay in the shadows a little and not interrupt anybody.

"I needed to get more comfortable and just control my body. I was so jacked up with energy and excitement, my first outing my legs were shaking and I couldn't feel anything. So it was just getting comfortable out there and knowing it's still baseball, regardless of who is hitting."

All spring, Luetge sat in an area of the Mariners clubhouse with long-shot players who've since been sent packing. Just this week, upon returning from Japan, he was moved over with the rest of the Major League pitchers.

Now he's sitting next to Furbush, his fellow left-hander looking for a spot. One of them could make the big league club. Or neither. It'll be another day or two before they know, but for now, they're just soaking it in.

"It's different, just because you don't know where you're going to be," said Luetge. "It's difficult, but I'm just trying not to think about it. As long as I'm here, I'm happy."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.