With starting pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma (strained finger tendon on throwing hand) and Taijuan Walker (shoulder inflammation) expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the 2014 season, the Mariners face the task of replacing everyone in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez.
Seattle has options young and old, though all come with caveats.
In “Group One” are non-roster invitees Scott Baker, Zach Miner and Randy Wolf, all of whom are fresh off Tommy John surgery.
In “Group Two” are James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi (try to hold the applause), all of whom have a big league repertoire of pitches but have yet to sustain success.
If healthy, Baker, who went 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA and a respectable 1.26 WHIP in seven seasons with the Twins, has the track record. But he appeared in just three games with the Cubs last September, posting a 3.60 ERA, after Tommy John surgery forced him to miss all of 2012.
- In a rain-shortened 5-3 win over the Angels Saturday, Baker impressed in his Cactus League debut with two scoreless innings in which he threw 32 pitches. Afterward, he said he no longer felt the “adverse affects” two years post-surgery.
- Wolf started Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Indians but didn’t factor in the decision. However, there were two positives for the Mariners from his Cactus League debut. He threw two innings, yielding one hit, one walk and striking out one. It was also his first MLB appearance since Sept. 22, 2012, when he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles. A 14-year veteran, Wolf, 37, was considered a long shot to make the big league club before Iwakuma and Walker went down.
- Beavan’s chance to make a boffo impression comes Monday afternoon when the Mariners play the Colorado Rockies in a split-squad game at Peoria Stadium.
- The other half of the roster travels to nearby Goodyear to play the Cincinnati Reds. Ramirez, who went 5-3 with a 4.98 ERA in 13 starts during a 2013 hampered by injuries, will get his second start of the spring as he continues his bid to make the rotation.
- Third baseman Kyle Seager is out for the fourth consecutive game after jamming his right index finger against into the third base bag during the team’s Cactus League opener. Seager will likely return to the lineup Tuesday.
- Should Mariners fans feel pessimistic or optimistic with the regular season opener just four weeks away? The roster is full of “what ifs” and “maybes,” according 710 ESPN radio’s Jim Moore.