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March 19, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Big test tonight for Mariners prospect Brandon Maurer as he battles for rotation spot

Mariners prospect Brandon Maurer is still alive in his fight for a starting rotation job. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners prospect Brandon Maurer is still alive in his fight for a starting rotation job. Photo Credit: AP

That’s a pretty good lineup the San Francisco Giants are putting out there tonight against Mariners starter Brandon Maurer as he continues his quest for an outside shot at the rotation coming out of camp.

Do I believe tonight will decide a job for him? No, I do not. In fact, I believe the way Jon Garland pitches on Thursday night could have more of an impact on Maurer’s fate. Simply put: if Garland goes out and gets lit up for a second start in a row, it might give the team pause when it comes to keeping the veteran. But if he goes out and has an OK outing, then I think Garland makes the squad.

And if Garland makes it, Maurer has no chance. The team would give the final spot to either Blake Beavan or Erasmo Ramirez.

In fact, even if Garland doesn’t make it, I think the team would give the final two remaining spots to Beavan and Ramirez. Not to Maurer.

Here’s why.

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 3.25.58 PMFor one thing, as good as Maurer has looked this spring, he has not been heads and tails better than everybody else. That wasn’t the case two years ago when Michael Pineda dominated the Cactus League and looked better than even Felix Hernandez at times. Two years ago, you could make the case that Pineda’s total package was much better than anybody not named Hernandez. With Maurer, he’s been good, but, other guys have been good, too.

Two years ago, had you not taken Pineda north, there might have been a clubhouse revolt. This spring? Not feeling it. Sure, the players are impressed by Maurer, but they’ve been impressed by Ramirez and Beavan as well.

And at this stage, when you’re talking about two guys that have already pitched in the big leagues, logged innings against MLB hitters and made changes to their game in order to better their chances of getting big league hitters out, it doesn’t make all that much sense to carry a guy who hasn’t pitched higher than Class AA ball ┬ánorth with you.

Let’s not get into any silly young guys-veteran debates here.

These three pitchers — Beavan, Ramirez and Maurer — are all young guys.

Two of those young guys have big league experience, Maurer does not. If Maurer even had AAA experience and was just impatiently pounding on the MLB door waiting to be let in, that would be one thing. But there’s no harm in having him pitch at the AAA level first. If he makes a stronger case there, by all means, look to bring him up if one of the other guys is struggling come May or June. But what’s the rush?

This team has capable back-end starters for now. And they are starters who have already shown some of what they can do under battle-tested MLB conditions. Maurer has yet to do that and spring training is not the best test. In time, Maurer will be at the same level as Beavan and Ramirez where he’ll have had his once-around the bigs and then he, too, can actually figure out why he has success or failure in the big leagues and can also implement changes that will inevitably come.

He’s got great stuff, yes. But he’s still learning how to pitch and will learn even more before the Mariners start his service time clock and risk throwing him out there into the fire when they still aren’t all too sure what they’ve got.

That’s how I see it, anyhow. And I don’t see Maurer heading north. He’s still had a great camp and it will be something he can build off going forward. He’ll get his time in the big leagues eventually. But there’s no real pressing reason for that time to be right now.

Comments | More in Cactus League | Topics: brandon maurer; blake beavan; erasmo ramirez; jon garland

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