PEORIA, Ariz. - Jesus Montero's playing time will come almost strictly while he's catching this season, due to the influx of potential designated hitters on the club with the addition of Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Michael Morse.
But manager Eric Wedge said on Thursday that he's fine with that situation, as the 23-year-old Montero has developed considerably in this second spring with the club.
"I'm very pleased with the last couple weeks in particular," Wedge said. "I felt like he turned the corner about halfway through the camp. I think we've seen that. Having said that, Kelly Shoppach is going to catch, too, because we need to keep Monte strong and in a position where he can perform to the best of his ability. It's something I'll monitor very close.
"But from a playing-time standpoint, his time is going to have to be behind home plate. Obviously I'm comfortable with him DHing, but we have so many other options with that to get people in the lineup we feel make us a better team."
Montero has been hitting well this spring, as well, his average at .395 after an 0-for-2 outing on Thursday against the Cubs.
Mariners waiting until Sunday to finalize roster
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Thursday that no decision has been finalized yet on the last roster move between outfielders Casper Wells and Jason Bay as the team will let that go down to the final 25-man roster deadline at noon PT on Sunday.
But Wells was left behind in Peoria to play in a couple of Minor League games this weekend, while Bay accompanied the team to its Thursday afternoon game in Mesa against the Cubs. Bay will fly with the club to Salt Lake City and presumably Oakland to open the season on Monday.
Zduriencik said the idea is to let Wells play in a couple of extra Minor League games and get more at-bats after not seeing much time recently, but it's safe to assume he's the odd man out and the team is simply waiting until the end as a precaution before locking into its final roster.
Manager Eric Wedge acknowledged the team didn't want to eliminate any options before it had to with games still remaining.
"What we're trying to do is give ourselves a little more time," Wedge said. "When you talk about the end of Spring Training, you want to protect yourself against so many different things, one of which is injury, quite frankly.
"If you don't have to make a decision early, you try not to do it. Jack and I did have conversations with both of them. Not all decisions have been made and we told them that and that's where we are. I'd like to tell them more, but we've got to play this out and do what's best for the ballclub, manage the roster accordingly and go from there."
Wells is out of Minor League options, so he would either need to be released or traded if the team settles on Bay.
One overhanging issue is the question of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez's health. Gutierrez played just 40 games last year because of injuries and has been slowed the last few weeks by tightness in his legs, though he played the past two days before getting an off-day on Thursday.
If Gutierrez is out, Michael Saunders moves to center field and then the corner spots fall to Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and whichever of the two outfielders the club decides to keep.
"It's a consideration," Wedge said of Gutierrez's situation. "Obviously we've slow-played him and I'll continue to make sure we take care of him, especially early in the season. He's going to get days off. We're a better ballclub when he's in there, but if he's not an option for us it doesn't do us any good."
Wells is more of a center field option, though Bay has played there a little. The club signed veteran Endy Chavez to a Minor League deal last week to provide more depth as well. Chavez is still with the team, along with several other players that will be sent down to the Minors after Saturday's game.
Bay has had a strong spring, batting .320 with two home runs and six RBIs in 50 at-bats. Wells has hit .189 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 53 at-bats. Wells is the better defender, but Bay has proven capable there as well this spring.
Iwakuma anxious to start regular season
MESA, Ariz. -- Hisashi Iwakuma doesn't speak English, but he spoke for all of his Mariners teammates on Thursday through translator Antony Suzuki, when he noted he's ready for a long spring to be done.
"I'm ready for the season to start any minute," Iwakuma said with a smile. "Right now."
Iwakuma made his final Cactus League start in the Mariners' 6-4 win over the Cubs -- giving up five hits and three runs over four innings, with zero walks and four strikeouts. His outing was cut short slightly by some dry skin that peeled off the middle finger of his throwing hand, though he said it was a common problem in spring and nothing to worry about.
"Nothing of concern," manager Eric Wedge said. "We were going to pull him back anyway. He still threw 55-60 pitches. We were looking to get him to 65. It all worked out well. Obviously there was no reason to push it."
"I feel good, generally," Iwakuma said. "My pitches were a little high today, but I'm prepared for the season to start and just get my feelings ready."
Iwakuma will be the No. 2 starter for the Mariners behind Felix Hernandez, with his first outing on Tuesday against the A's in Oakland.
Iwakuma finished the spring with a 4.26 ERA in six outings, allowing 18 hits in 19 innings with two walks and eight strikeouts.
"He's been very consistent," Wedge said. "He came in strong, he pitched strong, used all his pitches, was crisp really with everything. He's a veteran guy who pitches like a veteran, he makes adjustments well and has a real good understanding of what is working and maybe what's just a tad off. And because he has multiple weapons, it really helps him as a starting pitcher."
• Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik also said he hasn't heard back yet from Jeremy Bonderman on whether he'll accept an assignment to Triple-A Tacoma, but remains hopeful the veteran right-hander will choose to continue his comeback with the club.
• The Mariners have a travel day on Friday as they fly to Salt Lake City, where they'll face the Rockies in a 12:05 p.m. PT exhibition on Saturday. Brandon Maurer will start that game in his final tuneup before his Major League debut next Thursday in Oakland. That game will be televised live on ROOT Sports.