SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners notebook: Possible rotation twists with Erasmo, Felix

Mar 17, 2018, 11:23 AM | Updated: Mar 18, 2018, 9:46 am
While Erasmo Ramirez (lat strain) is making progress, the Mariners may slow down his return. (AP)...
While Erasmo Ramirez (lat strain) is making progress, the Mariners may slow down his return. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – Mariners manager Scott Servais provided a little clarity on a couple of pitching situations in his chat with the media Saturday morning.

‘I’m back’: Felix puts on a show with final bullpen of rehab

A week ago, all indications were Erasmo Ramirez had a good chance to return by the time the Mariners needed a fifth starter on April 11. That seems unlikely now as Servais said that Ramirez, who is on a throwing program after a three-week shutdown for a lat strain, will not throw his first bullpen until the final week of spring training.

“Can he make it back by then? That would be very aggressive,” Servais said. “We will play it by ear and trust the medical people.”

Ramirez will not be able to get any Cactus League starts so he will need to build back up in extended spring training and/or minor league games. This opens the door for Rob Whalen or Ariel Miranda to get at least one start with the big league team.

“I think both of those guys have showed very well,” Servais said of Whalen and Miranda. “I like the way Miranda threw at Oakland, I thought his secondary pitches were much better. I thought Whalen probably had the best curveball I’ve ever seen him have. It’s hard to get the ball to break here, the sharpness that Whalen had against the Rockies with the nine strikeouts was very impressive.”

While Servais has been pleased with the performance of both Whalen and Miranda, neither will be considered for a bullpen role.

“I think it is important to keep them stretched,” Servais said. “That is how we view those guys, as starting pitchers. There is a ton of value in having two, three, four guys you feel comfortable with (starting in the majors) in Tacoma.”

Starting pitching depth came into play last season at a rapid and historic rate. While it is hard to imagine we could see a repeat of what we saw then, there is little question the depth will be called upon in 2018.

“Eight (starters) you feel comfortable with, I think that’s where we are at,” answered Servais when asked to compare the depth he currently has to what he had one year ago. “Nine when you get Erasmo. I do think we have enough depth. Hopefully we don’t have to tap into it early.”

While depth will be needed to take at least one of Ramirez’s starts, it is highly unlikely it will be needed to cover a Felix Hernandez start. The question remains, however, which game will he make his season debut? Felix has his sights on opening day but at the most could get just two starts in Arizona before that day. Would that be enough?

“After he pitches on Monday we will have a better feel on if he will be able to make it or not,” Servais said. “For me, if we don’t feel very confident he can go out in the first series and throw 75-80 pitches, he probably shouldn’t be out there. He should have one more turn. We have to be smart.”

Felix is scheduled to throw 40-45 pitches in a minor league game Monday afternoon. A typical buildup could get him to 50-55 in his next start which would put 75 for the Opening Series in reach. An alternative would be to keep him in Arizona to get him one more start in extended spring training and bring him back for the second series of the season. That no doubt would be a tough sell.

“I think we all know how Felix is wired,” Servais acknowledged. “He wants the ball, he wants to compete, he wants to get our team off to a good start but we also have to look a little bit broader. It’s not just about opening day. I hate to say it, but it’s another game. It is one of 162. We need him to make more than one start.”

We should know more after Monday.

Lineups! for split squad Saturday:

In Peoria vs. Angels

Dee Gordon, CF
Jean Segura, SS
Kyle Seager, 3B
Ryon Healy, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Gordon Beckham, 2B
Junior Lake, LF
John Andreoli, RF

Marco Gonzales, LHP

Also scheduled to pitch: Juan Nicasio, David Phelps, James Pazos.

In Mesa vs. A’s

Ian Miller, LF
Mitch Haniger, RF
Guillermo Heredia, CF
Mike Ford, 1B
Taylor Motter, 3B
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, DH
Danny Muno, 4
Tuffy Gosewisch, C
Zach Vincej, SS

Casey Lawrence, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: Shawn Armstrong, Art Warren, Anderson, Gilles, Koval, Misiewicz.

Notes

• First baseman Ryon Healy (hand surgery) makes his return to games Saturday, and while most of the regulars are now staying in games longer, the Mariners want to build Healy up slowly. He should get just 2-3 at-bats but then play again on Sunday.

• The Toronto Blue Jays have claimed LHP Sam Moll off waivers leaving the Mariners 40-man roster at 37.

• Ichiro (calf) is scheduled to take batting practice on the field Saturday, Robinson Cano (hamstring) and Nelson Cruz (quad) will hit in the cages. While we could see Ichiro return to games in the next couple of days, we most likely will not see Cruz and Cano until Wednesday.

• The Mariners have their final split squad games of the spring Saturday. Further roster cuts should follow shortly after.

Worth another look: M’s closer Edwin Diaz strikes out side on 9 pitches

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Mariners notebook: Possible rotation twists with Erasmo, Felix