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April 10, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Mariners prime concern right now has to be getting through rest of week

Mariners pitcher Brandon Maurer lasted only two-thirds of an inning last night, creating bullpen issues that could last the rest of the week. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners pitcher Brandon Maurer lasted only two-thirds of an inning last night, creating bullpen issues that could last the rest of the week. Photo Credit: AP

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Don’t forget to tune in at 10 a.m. today on Sports Radio KJR when I’ll be co-hosting with Times colleague Jerry Brewer. I’m sure we’ll talk about the issues raised in this post and much, much more.

Forget last night’s 16-9 demolition for the Mariners and the fact the Houston Astros undoubtedly just became the first team in baseball history to score only 17 runs total their first seven games, then 16 runs in Game No. 8. Don’t need the Elias Sports Bureau to confirm that one.

It’s only one game and counts for just one loss in the standings. For now, anyway.

What the Mariners now have to ensure is that this one loss doesn’t torpedo the rest of the week.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, MLB’s continued love affair with making their early seasons as difficult as possible sees them playing 14 games in a row to start the season. That means, there will be no respite for the team when it comes to resting a bullpen that was severely taxed last night after starter Brandon Maurer exited just 2/3 of an inning in.

That means, for now, that Blake Beavan has to man-up and go deeper into tonight’s game. Beavan was rolling along pretty well in Chicago until he made a mid-game decision to get away from his fastball and show the White Sox more breaking stuff. Against this Houston lineup, if it’s working early, Beavan should just stick to the plan until things start to go wrong this time. No use fixing something that ain’t broke. If it breaks early for him tonight, Beavan might just have to wear it and get throttled because the team cannot afford another early exit.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge made some noise last night about needing bullpen reinforcements and I’d say that’s a pretty good idea. Left-handed reliever¬†Lucas Luetge threw three innings last night, a total which would have taken him about two weeks of work to accumulate this time last year. Luetge has minor league options left and hasn’t looked very good so far this season or in spring training. So, if a reliever has to go in order to make room for some AAA help, I can see Luetge getting optioned out and somebody like right-hander Yoervis Medina or southpaw Bobby Lafromboise coming up for the time being.

The reason I mention those two guys is they are already on the 40-man roster. Logan Bawcom¬†is pitching well in AAA and Danny Farquhar had a good spring, but to add one of those guys, you’d have to take somebody off the roster and it’s early in the season for that if this is only being done for a band-aid move at the MLB level.

Part of me thinks the team might also want a starting pitcher up here who can do some long work in the bullpen. D.J. Mitchell is on the roster and last started five days ago, so today would work out for him in that regard if he was needed to throw in long relief for the Mariners.

Once tonight’s bullpen is sorted out, there’s the issue of the next scheduled start in Maurer’s slot. Wedge alluded to the fact Maurer got hit by a line drive last night and if his health is an issue this morning — or if the Mariners don’t want to send him back out against the Texas Rangers on Sunday — he could go on the disabled list or to AAA and somebody else could be called up to take his spot.

The only two serious candidates for that would appear to be left-hander Danny Hultzen or right-hander Jeremy Bonderman. Again, Bonderman isn’t on the roster, so somebody else would have to be taken off if he’s to be added and his first AAA outing in which he allowed 10 hits over five innings isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement that he’s ready for the majors again.

Hultzen just pitched last night, giving up a pair of runs over five innings. So, if you need a guy who can take Maurer’s place next weekend, the timing is perfect. The only thing you lose in that regard is starting his MLB service time clock early when it comes to pending free agency and Super 2 arbitration status. But with pitchers, both those things are less of a concern due to the likelihood of injury for pitchers over the six years a club has them under control.

For Maurer, if he indeed can make his next start, it will probably be his final chance to show he can get through a game without being lit up. Remember, he’s coming straight out of Class AA and while it made for a fun spring training storyline, there’s no sense keeping him in the majors if he can’t handle it. His trademark in AA and this spring was his ability to bear down in-game and limit the damage once runners reach base.

So far, all that’s similar is that he keeps accumulating baserunners. He isn’t limiting the damage and it just might be that he needs some AAA seasoning. Not every young pitcher is Michael Pineda, who simply overpowered hitters with a high-90s fastball when he came up two years ago. Maurer doesn’t have that ability. He has to pitch. So far, he hasn’t and the team can’t afford too much more of this.

The Mariners have an interesting team this year and don’t want to torch the season in the first few weeks by carrying guys who are going to allow one bad night to ruin the next five for the team. Being young and forecast as part of the future will only take you so far. At this point, spots have to be earned. And I’m not just talking about Maurer. Some of these young position players need to step up their games. This season wasn’t supposed to be about auditions anymore.

The Mariners just got waxed by a team that looked AAA-caliber the first week. We’ll see how they respond roster-wise and on the field tonight.

 

Comments | More in roster | Topics: brandon maurer; danny hultzen; lucas luetge; bobby lafromboise

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