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Fifth starter, another bat aren’t Mariners’ only needs

Everyone knows the Mariners need a No. 5 starter and a right-handed bat.

Which is the higher priority? If I had to vote for one, I’d say the fifth starter. I don’t think anyone wants to see Erasmo Ramirez or Brandon Maurer out there again, though Ramirez did shut out the Rays in a shaky 4 2/3 innings on Monday. Plus the Mariners have won in Ramirez’s last two starts, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they send him out to face Safeco Joe Saunders and the Rangers on Saturday.

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As good as Mariners rookie Roenis Elias has been, his innings total could become an issue later this season. (AP)

It’s not just the fifth spot in the rotation. There also have to be some concerns about Chris Young and Roenis Elias.

I’d be fine with Young as a fifth starter, but I don’t see him sustaining his overall success. He’s pitching tonight against the Yankees, and he’ll give the Mariners a chance against Masahiro Tanaka. Young is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA at Safeco Field.

With Elias, John Clayton pointed out recently that he’s never pitched more than 148 innings in a season, and that occurred two years ago at Single-A High Desert. Last year he threw 130 innings for Double-A Jackson.

Elias has pitched 81 2/3 innings this year, and Clayton justifiably wonders how long the lefty will hold up. You can figure he’s good to go for awhile, but what happens in August when he gets up around 150 innings? And think about how many pitches he’s thrown to get to his 81 2/3 innings already.

When you hear that general manager Jack Zduriencik is looking for another starter, it makes you wonder about the health of James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.

Paxton has been out since mid-April, nursing a lat injury. On Tuesday we learned that he’s been playing catch but there are no immediate plans for him to throw from a mound. That leads you to believe he won’t be back with the Mariners until after the All-Star break.

With Walker, based on manager Lloyd McClendon’s comments on Tuesday, I get the feeling the Mariners want him to pitch with Triple-A Tacoma for a while. And my definition of “a while” pushes his timetable into July, just like Paxton.

As far as the need for a right-handed bat, the Mariners have Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero on their roster right now. Though Gillespie’s been hot of late, you can’t expect him to be your occasional clean-up hitter and think that will work long-term.

As crazy as it’s been with the makeshift lineups, I’d rather see the Mariners try to patch things together than trade a promising prospect for a bat right now.

Corey Hart, out with a hamstring injury, should be back in early July. Logan Morrison – though I know he’s a left-handed hitter – should be ready to go after playing 18 games in Tacoma. He’s batting .308 and has gone 8 for his last 18, including a solo homer Tuesday night in Memphis.

Until Hart returns, you could take a flyer on Jesus Montero, who’s batting .273 overall for Tacoma but is hitting .300 in June and .313 against left-handers.

Or there’s Jabari Blash, who turns 25 on the Fourth of July. He’s batting .221 for the Rainiers but is 12 for his last 31 and was 3 for 4 Tuesday night. Blash smacked three homers in one game against El Paso last week.

More help could be on the way at shortstop. Chris Taylor returned Tuesday night from a broken pinky and is averaging .372. That’s 200 points better than Brad Miller – albeit at a much different level – but there’s no debating that he’s a better defensive shortstop.

I’d also be concerned about keeping my job if I were Justin Smoak, whose sore quad has sidelined him of late. After getting just one hit in his last 18 at-bats, Smoak’s average has dropped to .208. Morrison’s lurking, and I wouldn’t mind taking a look at a platoon situation with LoMo and Willie Bloomquist at first. Crazy? Maybe, but would it be worse than seeing Smoak every day?

Despite what appear to be glaring issues, the Mariners are still 34-30 and in the thick of a wild-card race. As much as I hope it continues, logic tells me that it won’t.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for and You can reach Jim at and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.