Eric Wedge could be seen speaking emphatically to Brandon Maurer after pulling him in the first inning, during which Maurer gave up seven hits and six runs. The moment is capture in the above picture.
“I told him to keep his head up. Walk off the field with your head held high. It’s happened to everybody at some point,” Wedge related afterward.
But Maurer has now had two rough starts as he tries to make the jump from Double-A to the major leagues. In 6 2/3 innings, he’s given up 15 hits and 12 runs for a 16.20 ERA. Does he get another start to try to turn things around? I asked Wedge that question, which he deflected by referring to the line drive by Matt Dominguez that struck Maurer pretty squarely in his thigh late in the first. The trainer came out to look at him, but he stayed in the game.
“We have to make sure he’s OK first. He got hit pretty good there on that hip. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Wedge said. “That’s the first thing I’m concerned about. I want to make sure he’s OK after sleeping on it and coming in tomorrow. You love his arm, you love his stuff. He had a great spring. He deserves to be here.”
We’ll get a better idea on Wednesday what the Mariners plan to do with Maurer, whose next scheduled start is Sunday against the Texas Rangers — not exactly the optimal team to try to get on track against.
Texas’s starter that day, incidentally, will be Nick Tepesch, who like Maurer had not pitched above Double-A prior to this year. Tepesch made his major-league debut tonight and pitched excellently in a win over the Tampa Bay. In 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just four hits and one run.
Maurer, however, has yet to click in either outing after a strong spring, struggling with his location.
“I just think when you’re a young pitcher and come out in that first inning, you’ve got to be able to execute pitches from the first inning on,” Wedge said. “When trouble does come your way, you have to be able to control the damage. Hey, it’s the big leagues. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do. You’re going to be on the south side of it. He’s a student of the game. He’ll learn.”
Maurer said he was “feeling all right” after getting struck by the ball. But his psyche is a different story.
“I was struggling a little bit, not making pitches when I need to make pitches, and they came out swinging,’’ he said.
Maurer said that because it was his home debut, “I was trying to put an impression on the fans, I guess, tonight. Trying to overthrow, maybe.”
If the Mariners decide to make a change, their main options would appear to be Danny Hultzen or Jeremy Bonderman, as Erasmo Ramirez remains on the disabled list. Hultzen won his second straight game for Tacoma tonight with a five-inning effort in which he gave up four hits and two earned runs, striking out six and walking just one. He’s 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts, giving up seven hits in 11 innings, striking out 14 and walking three. Bonderman has made just one start, giving up 10 hits and three earned runs in five innings. He struck out two and walked two in the no-decision.
Wedge indicated the Mariners might have to make a move to augment their bullpen, which was taxed tonight.
“We’re talking about that, and we’re going to continue to talk about it,” he said. “There’s a chance we’ll need to do something.”
Kameron Loe’s propensity to give up the long ball — three homers allowed tonight, six in 6 2/3 innings this season — is a concern.
“That’s just uncharacteristic of him,’’ Wedge said. “He’s a sinkerball guy. He’s here to put the ball on the ground. He’s struggled with that a little bit. It looked like he was just a little flat tonight.’’