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Two of the Big 3 set for their Safeco debuts as the Mariners go to a six-man rotation

By Shannon Drayer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It turns out there was more news Tuesday than just the Mariners finally announcing the September call-ups of James Paxton, Hector Noesi, Chance Ruffin and Carlos Triunfel. The team will go the rest of the way with a six-man rotation.

James Paxton

Paxton will enter the rotation on Sept. 7 against Tampa and stay there for the remainder of the season. As of now the rotation going forward will be Erasmo Ramirez – who is pitching Tuesday night – followed in order by Taijuan Walker, Joe Saunders, Hisashi Iwakuma, Paxton and Felix Hernandez.

This means Walker’s Safeco Field debut (and his final game of the season as he will reach his innings limit) will be pushed to Tuesday, Sept. 10. After that start he will be replaced in the rotation by Brandon Maurer.

The innings limit should not be an issue for Paxton, who has thrown 145 and could go as high as 170 this year.

Iwakuma’s innings, however, have been a concern as he is at 191 and the Mariners would prefer he not go over 210. His career high in innings pitched was 201 2/3 in 2008, the year he beat Yu Darvish for the ERA title. With a sixth starter, keeping him under 210 should not be an issue.

Hernandez should benefit as well. He most likely will get four more starts, although he does slot into the final start of the season and in the past the Mariners have limited him in that game if they have let him pitch at all. Hernandez is at 194 2/3 innings and most likely will finish under 220, which would give him his lowest innings total since 2008.

As for the call-ups, Paxton was a bit of a surprise as his numbers were decent but not great at Triple-A Tacoma. A record of 8-11 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 appearances hardly can be considered lighting the world on fire but from what I have heard from people inside and outside the organization, when his stuff is on it is special. Command has been an issue but he has also gone deep in games and put up good strikeout numbers. Maybe a few starts at the big-league level gives him a push forward. Maybe he is up to get exposure. Major League experience of any sort can up the price tag of a prospect.

Noesi and Ruffin are bullpen depth, most likely here because they are on the 40-man roster. Ruffin is interesting as he was converted to a starter earlier this year and then put back in the pen last month. This year he has gone 5-6 with a 3.91 ERA in 31 appearances, 18 of them starts. In 13 relief appearances with the Rainiers he posted a 1.74 ERA while striking out 19 and walking only three batters.

Triunfel is back up for the second time this year. He has yet to get a good look at the Major League level and most likely will not this time up, either. He has one option remaining.

With Tuesday’s moves the 40-man roster is full at 40 with reliever Stephen Pryor on the 60-day disabled list and catcher Jesus Montero on the restricted list.

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