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Dipoto: Mariners like the versatility of Erasmo Ramirez, but for now they need him in starter shape

Erasmo Ramirez had a strong first three innings back with the Mariners on Tuesday. (AP)
LISTEN: GM Jerry Dipoto on an important stretch for the Mariners

The Mariners brought Erasmo Ramirez back to Seattle last week to be a member of the starting rotation, but it was really his versatility that appealed to general manager Jerry Dipoto.

Talking to “Danny, Dave and Moore” during his weekly interview on Thursday, Dipoto said the 27-year-old right-hander could shift to a relief role if the Mariners decide to call up either Marco Gonzales or Andrew Moore from Triple-A.

“One of the benefits that he does bring us is that whether it’s Marco Gonzales or Andrew Moore or anyone else, he is versatile enough that he can really augment our staff,” Dipoto said, “whether it’s as our fifth starter or as a swingman in the bullpen – and not just for this year but for 2018 and beyond.”

Moore: Mariners rotation still has too many question marks

Gonzales is another player recently acquired by Seattle through a trade, and when he first joined the organization Dipoto expected the young left-hander would be with the big club relatively quickly. Those expectations appeared to had been walked back with the addition of Ramirez, but that was before Felix Hernandez hit the DL on Saturday, prompting Seattle to call up Gonzales to start.

With Hernandez out, Ramirez will be a full-time member of the starting rotation for the foreseeable future, though he has some work to do to be back in starter shape. Of Ramirez’s 27 appearances this year, just nine have been as a starter, and he has thrown more than 80 pitches just four times in 2017. Dipoto pointed to that as an explanation for why Ramirez cruised through three scoreless innings in his first start for Seattle on Tuesday in Texas, then gave up a pair of homers and was pulled after getting one out in the fourth inning.

“I thought he threw the ball particularly well for the first three (innings), then he petered out,” Dipoto said. “We need to build his pitch count.”

When Ramirez does get back into starter shape, Dipoto said there’s a lot to like about him.

“When he’s been given the ability to just run as a starter, he’s been very effective in that role. We know his makeup is outstanding, his work habits have been described as among the best they’ve had here in recent years,” Dipoto said. “He touches the mid-90s, operates at 92 with his fastball, he’s got nice run and sink, very good changeup, and since the last time we saw him here in Seattle he’s come up with a very effective cutter.”