Report: Mariners prospect Michael Pineda favored for rotation spot

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Mariners prospect right-hander Michael Pineda has garnered all sorts of attention this spring by flashing mid-to-high 90s heat on the radar gun.

And while spring training performances aren’t the be-all end-all, he has also pitched pretty well, posting a 2.57 ERA and 5/3 K/BB ratio over his first seven Cactus League innings. Still, the assumption has been that the 22-year-old will remain in the minor leagues until June in an effort to delay his service time.

Not so, at least according to what Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has heard from multiple sources. In fact, Baker hears that the final spot in the starting rotation is “Pineda’s to lose.”

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik won’t confirm Baker’s report, but said that Pineda’s service time won’t have an impact on his decision.

“I don’t think we’re going to worry about service time,” Zduriencik told me. “No one’s going to hold them back. If they’re ready to play, we’re going to let them play.”

In other words, if he continues to pitch well, he’s in.

Standing at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Pineda has a 2.49 ERA over parts of five seasons in the minors. After being limited to 47 1/3 innings in 2009 due to elbow soreness, he posted a 3.36 ERA over 25 starts between Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma last season, averaging 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

Nate Robertson needs elbow surgery and Zduriencik essentially dismissed David Pauley as an option during today’s conversation with Baker, so that leaves Luke French as the only reasonable alternative to Pineda.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.