Seattle Mariners

Mariners option Paxton to Tacoma, Karns to be fifth starter

It will be right-hander Nathan Karns at the back end of the Mariners’ rotation when the regular season opens early next month.

The Mariners optioned left-hander James Paxton to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday morning, one day after he squandered a six-run lead in a 12-9 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

“I’m not happy, obviously,” Paxton said. “I’m not where I want to be, but the fault is all on me. I didn’t have the best spring, result-wise. I didn’t do what they wanted to see. So I’m going to go down and work on some stuff, and I’ll be back.”

Paxton gave up 19 runs (18 earned) and 25 hits in 15 innings over five Cactus League starts. He also walked eight and struck out just six.

“He has not had a great spring,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’ll be the first to admit (that). … He just didn’t get the results, and it is a result-driven league.”

Karns hadn’t been much better. Entering his start Monday against Kansas City, he had allowed 15 runs (12 earned) and 21 hits in 16 innings over five starts. He had 12 strikeouts and seven walks.

Still, the Mariners chose Karns.

“Talking through it with the coaching staff and front-office staff,” Servais said, “that’s the decision we made. And that’s what we’re going with.”

Karns then produced his best start of the spring in limiting the Royals to two earned runs in six innings in a 6-4 victory. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in an efficient 63-pitch outing.

“Servais notified me before the game that I was going to be the fifth starter,” he said. “That could have been a little pressure taken off my shoulders. But today’s outing was something I’ve been trying to get to for a while.

“It was nice to get in there, no walks, use all of my pitches effectively.”

The Mariners also optioned first baseman/outfielder Stefen Romero and infielder Chris Taylor to Tacoma. While Romero had a strong spring, Taylor did not.

“Chris had as tough a camp as you can have,” Servais said. “I think he put a lot of pressure on himself early. Then he just tried to relax and go play. That didn’t work out so good either.

“It just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening at the plate. Then it started not happening in the field. He’s always been very sure-handed at any position in the field. It just hasn’t been there for him.”

The move to send Taylor to Tacoma came one day after a similar decision on Shawn O’Malley and means Luis Sardinas will open the season as the club’s utility infielder.

Romero appears to be a victim of inventory. He outplayed Dae-Ho Lee and Jesus Montero in the competition to determine a platoon partner for first baseman Adam Lind.

But Romero has an option remaining, while Lee had an opt-out clause and Montero was out of options. The Mariners signaled their preference Sunday by adding Lee to the 40-man roster after placing Montero on waivers.

Montero was claimed later Monday by Toronto.

Servais said Romero will play first base and the outfield at Tacoma.

“He’s a viable option,” Servais said, “if we do need a right-handed bat in the outfield or at first base. He did have an option left.”

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners