Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood will follow Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in te starting rotation, manager Eric Wedge announced said Wednesday. Hernandez will start when the Mariners officially open the season March 28 in Tokyo against the Oakland Athletics.
Hernandez, 14-14 last season, will be making his fifth Opening Day start. Randy Johnson made the most Opening Day starts for the Mariners, six between 1992-98.
Vargas, who went 10-13, 4.25 in 2011, will start the second Tokyo game against the Athletics March 29.
Wedge said that Noesi would start an exhibition game against Hanshin March 25 and that Hisashi Iwakuma would get the call in a second exhibition contest March 26 against the Yomiuri Giants.
Iwakuma, a one-time Japanese standout, was a rotation candidate but will start the season in the bullpen.
“Quite frankly, I think that’s the best way to transition him this year, with the history he had last year with health, introducing him to this game and helping him get off to a good start,” Wedge said.
Putting Iwakuma in the bullpen allowed the Mariners to keep Millwood after a strong spring by the 37-year-old right-hander.
“He made this ballclub,” Wedge of Millwood. “He made the decision for us just by the way he pitched and competed.”
The rotation has four right handers and one left hander, Vargas.
SEATTLE’S 2012 STARTING ROTATION
RHP Felix Hernandez (14-14, 3.47)
Hernandez opened the 2011 season with a 5-hit, 6-2, complete-game effort against the Oakland A’s.
But he ended the season sourly, losing his final three, one to the Yankees and a pair to Texas.
The Mariners posted a 17-16 record in Hernandez’s 33 appearances, largely because they scored an average of just 3.27 runs when he started.
Hernandez is 85-67 in his seven-year Seattle career (debut Aug. 4, 2005). His 85 wins rank third in franchise history behind Jamie Moyer (145) and Randy Johnson (130).
Hernandez started three games this spring, going 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA. He had his other Opening Day assignments in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
LHP Jason Vargas (10-13, 4.25)
Vargas, who has been with the Mariners since 2009, began the 2011 season pitching behind Fernandez in the rotation, but quickly fell to third after Michael Pineda, since traded to the Yankees, emerged.
Vargas made 32 starts in 2011. He threw four complete games and three shutouts.
His best outing occurred June 19 vs. Philadelphia when he allowed the Phillies just three hits in a complete-game win.
Vargas has not had a very good spring with a 1-2 record and 12.46 ERA in three starts. In his most recent outing, Vargas didn’t even get through the first inning, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits.
RHP Hector Noesi (2-2, 4.47)
Acquired by the Mariners as a sidebar in the Jesus Montero/Michael Pineda blockbuster last winter, Noesi is a pitch-to-contact-type whose act may play better at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field than in less-forgiving Yankee Stadium.
A native of Esperanza of the Dominican Republic, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Noesi appeared in 30 games in 2011, getting two starts, while working 56.1 innings. That is the extent of his major league career.
Noesi has two starts this spring. He has a 1.80 ERA in 5.0 innings and a .176 batting average against. Noesi threw three innings of one-run ball in Seattle’s 7-4 win over the Brewers Tuesday.
RHP Blake Beaven (5-6, 4.27)
The 24-year-old Beavan made his major league debut July 3, 2011, by allowing three hits and one run over seven innings in a 3-1 victory over the San Diego Padres at Safeco Field. He went on to appear in 15 games, all starts, working 97 innings.
Beavan came to the Mariners in mid-2010 in the Cliff Lee trade with the Texas Rangers that also netted Jason Smoak.
He spent the balance of the 2010 season pitching for the Tacoma Rainiers, for whom he also pitched in 2011 before his summons to Seattle.
Beavan started four times this spring (tied for the team high), and has a 1-1 record and 2.35 ERA (15.1 IP). Beavan helped cement his case for a spot in the rotation by holding opponents to a .214 batting average.
RHP Kevin Millwood (4-3, 3.98)
An innings eater, Millwood pitched 15 seasons for Atlanta (1997-02), Philadelphia (2003-04), Cleveland (2005), Texas (2006-09), Baltimore (2010) and Colorado (2011). He has a career record of 163-140 with a 4.10 ERA.
For the Rockies last season, Millwood went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA in nine appearances, all starts.
Millwood has twice won 18 games, with Atlanta in 1999 (18-7, 2.68 ERA) and again with the Braves in 2002 (18-8, 3.24). He led the American League in ERA in 2005 (2.86), and the National League in starts (35) in 2000. Millwood made his only All-Star appearance in 1999.
Millwood represents a nice, low-cost addition to the Mariners. While the Mariners acquired Montero from the Yankees, they sacrificed Pineda.