SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners Notebook: A look at what will determine rotation order

Mar 28, 2022, 11:40 AM
Mariners Marco Gonzales...
Marco Gonzales pitches for the Mariners against the Padres in a 2021 spring training game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Happy Ray Day! Too soon? Well, it’s at least too soon to announce the Mariners’ opening day starter, according to manager Scott Servais.

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“We’ll see how it goes today,” Servais said Monday morning before Ray’s scheduled Cactus League start against the Texas Rangers. “I’m glad he’s in a Mariners uniform. He’s throwing the ball really good. He’s been everything we hoped to this point.”

There is, however, the matter of the calendar, and the math is not difficult. Ray, who makes his third start of the spring today, slots into opening day. The spots after the first game are not quite as clear-cut with an off day after the opener, but it appears Logan Gilbert will follow with Marco Gonzales pitching the third game. While rotation order typically means little other than the first day of the season and coming out of the All-Star break, Servais believes the handedness and stuff of pitchers can be used strategically when setting the rotation.

“I think it helps, the variance of your rotation and mixing,” he said. “I think left-handed pitching is always valuable. It’s different, and certainly our lefties (Ray and Gonzales) do it much different in how they get people out. To slow down offenses, I think it’s good to be able to mix it up. … Marco does it differently (than Ray). He is very effective in how he does it and he should only be more effective for the other guys who are around him.”

As for the fifth spot in the rotation? Prospects Matt Brash and George Kirby continue to impress, and Servais noted that Justus Sheffield has been throwing the ball “really well” in camp, too. The outside chance of Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto being able to trade for a higher-tier starter remains, but for now it looks like the fifth starter is in camp. Perhaps just as importantly, Servais pointed out that the sixth, seventh and eighth starters could be, as well.

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“We do have some depth,” he said. “We’ve got some players with upside. It’s not just someone coming in to fill a role. I feel pretty good – knock on wood – that we can stay away from the bullpen days with the depth we have coming. We are in a good spot.”

One item of interest with the rotation: Servais said that it was likely the Mariners would keep the rotation on turn the first time through in the regular season despite the off days they will encounter early on, but also said they could skip the fifth spot when the opportunity arises after that.

Lineup!

J.P. Crawford, SS
Ty France, 1B
Jesse Winker, LF
Mitch Haniger, RF
Eugenio Suárez, 3B
Abraham Toro, 2B
Julio Rodríguez, CF
Cal Raleigh, C
Dylan Moore, 3B

Robbie Ray, SP

Also scheduled to pitch: Andrés Muñoz, Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider.

Mariners notes

• If it seems like the Mariners are racking up the strikeouts, well they are. The current leaders in spring training are:

Red Sox – 11 games, 114 strikeouts
Cubs – 11 games, 111 strikeouts
Twins – 11 games, 106 strikeouts
Mariners – Nine games, 99 strikeouts
Padres – Nine games, 99 strikeouts

• With it being March, the Mariners are running a bracket-style ping pong tournament in the clubhouse. Luis Torrens is said to be the best player. Behind him? Steven Souza Jr., who carries three different paddles (each geared for a different kind of game) and has a ping pong machine in his garage. Former Tampa Bay teammate Tommy Hunter got Souza into the game, teaching him the nuances of the sport.

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