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Jack Zduriencik seems willing to go halfway around the world to make his Mariners better, if that's what it takes.

In this case, however, he let someone else do the traveling. While Zduriencik remained at home in Seattle, he telephoned Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who was in Rome.

Hendry had been trying for almost two months to pry right-handed pitcher Aaron Heilman from the Mariners. Heilman was dealt to the Cubs on Wednesday for two players Zduriencik loves, left-handed starter Garrett Olson and shortstop/second baseman Ronny Cedeno.

"We'd been talking about it for some time, but it never came together," said Zduriencik, who traded for Heilman at the winter meetings last month. "I didn't want to give up Aaron."

But last week the Cubs dealt for Olson, who had an up-and-down first full season with the Orioles in 2008. With Olson as part of the package, Zduriencik was able to let Heilman go.

So it's Olson, not Heilman, who jumps into the seven-man battle for the five berths in the Mariners rotation when spring training starts Feb. 14. And Cedeno, who at one point was one of the gems of the Cubs farm system and who turns 26 on Monday, will get the opportunity to press shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt or second baseman Jose Lopez for playing time.

"Our goal is to accumulate talent in our organization while doing everything we can to compete in 2009," Zduriencik said. "When you have competition, that's a good thing. I expect both of these guys to come in and compete for a job."

That will probably come as news to Betancourt and Lopez, who have been the Mariners' shortstop/second base combination for most of the past three seasons. Lopez is coming off his best overall season, hitting .297 with 17 homers and 89 RBIs, but his range at second base diminished. Betancourt had a great final two months - posting a .325 average - but overall had his worst offensive season (.279, seven homers, 51 RBIs).

Cedeno was a regular for the Cubs in 2006, split time between Triple-A Iowa and the Cubs in 2007 and spent 2008 back in Chicago, although he didn't have a regular job. He was a utility man who hit .269 without much power, playing second (27 starts) and short (20 starts) as well as making appearances at third base and in the outfield.

He is a slick fielder, and Zduriencik and manager Don Wakamatsu are stressing defense as a way to turn around things for a team that lost 101 games in 2008.

One scenario could have Cedeno, a right-handed hitter, in a platoon with left-handed-hitting first baseman Russell Branyan, with Lopez moving from second base to first base against left-handed pitchers. Branyan will get the chance to prove he can play against both lefties and right-handers, but his history has been spotty in that regard.

Olson will compete for a spot in the rotation. There are three other left-handers in the mix - Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Ryan Rowland-Smith - and three right-handers - Felix Hernandez, Brandon Morrow and Carlos Silva.

"I hope his mind-set is he comes here wanting to win a spot in the starting rotation," Zduriencik said. "If we were giving Aaron Heilman a chance to be a starter, which I told him we were, now here's Garrett Olson - he's young, he's left-handed - why not give a starting opportunity in the same vein?"

Olson was 9-10 with a 6.65 ERA in 26 starts and ranked fourth among American League rookies in starts (26), fifth in both wins (nine) and innings pitched (132 2/3 ) and was sixth in strikeouts (83) last season. He was 5-1 with a 3.86 ERA (44 1/3 IP, 19 ER) in his first eight starts with Baltimore after being recalled on April 29, 2008.

A sandwich pick in the 2005 draft (the 48th player chosen overall), Olson moved quickly through Baltimore's minor league system and went 21-17 with a 2.95 ERA before being promoted a month into the 2008 season. He had control issues after his promotion, but averaged fewer than three walks per nine innings as a minor leaguer and almost nine strikeouts per nine innings.

"I congratulated Aaron this morning," Zduriencik said of Heilman. "He grew up as a Cubs fan and played nearby at Notre Dame. He said he felt a little bad about (the trade), but said that when the call came out, he'd be excited."

Heilman is hardly an old-timer, but at 30, he's already into the salary arbitration process, having avoided arbitration by signing with the Mariners for $1.625 million earlier this month. Olson, with just one year in the big leagues, will mean a savings of about $1.25 million for the Mariners.

And there's more.

"He's a good, young pitcher, and we get to control him for five more years," Zduriencik said. Heilman would be eligible for free agency after the 2010 season, while Olson wouldn't until after the 2013 season.

EXTRA BASE: To make room on the 40-man roster, right-handed reliever Randy Messenger was released. Once he clears waivers, the Mariners could invite Messenger to spring training as a nonroster player.\


Mariners RECEIVE

Ronny Cedeno, 25 ((age)), a talented infielder with an aggressive hitting approach who split time between shortstop and second base in a backup role in 2008.

Garrett Olson, 25 ((age)), a left-hander who has struggled through 33 major league starts after a stellar career in the minors. He has been traded twice this winter, going from the Orioles to the Cubs to the Mariners in a 10-day span.

Mariners TRADE

Aaron Heilman, 30 ((age)), a veteran right-hander acquired by the Mariners from the Mets in the

J.J. Putz trade Dec. 11. Heilman had been a candidate for the Mariners rotation in 2009.

P-I reporter John Hickey can be reached at 206-448-8004 or Read his Mariners blog at

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 30, 2009

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