Mariners manager Eric Wedge just confirmed that Aaron Harang will start Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers while Blake Beavan will got to the bullpen. Harang, 34, arrived here today and threw a bullpen session of about 40 pitches starting at 3:30 p.m. PT. After he was done, it took Wedge and his coaching staff little time to decide Harang was fine to go ahead and start.
“He was up to over 100 pitches in spring training, threw a simulated game the other day,” Wedge said. “He feels good, looked good today. (Pitching coach Carl (Willis) spent some time talking to him as well as myself. I felt like that was the right thing for him to do. Moving Beavan to the bullpen gives us some length in the bullpen as well. So, hopefully it’s a win-win situation.”
I asked Wedge what advantage he feels Harang brings over Beavan as a starter.
“He’s a veteran guy,” Wedge said. “He knows what he needs to do to go out there and be successful. He has a great feel for himself. He’s had a tremendous amount of success at the big league level. He had 31 starts last year and he had a pretty good year.”
There were a couple of ways the Mariners could have gone on this, especially since Brandon Maurer has also struggled his first two starts.
Wedge made a point of noting that Beavan “won 11 games for us last year” and could maybe help his game as a starter by working through some issues out of the bullpen.
That being said, there was the obvious question of why, given Beavan’s past experience, the Mariners are sticking with the untested Maurer in the rotation.
“I like his arsenal of pitches and his stuff,” Wedge said. “And again, he’s a young guy that’s still getting his feet wet and I just believe you’ve got to give it a bit of time. Blake’s a little bit further along than him experience-wise but you have to like the stuff of Maurer and each time you go out there, you’re going to continue to see him figure things out, improve and you’ve got to stick with guys.”
In other words, Wedge is hoping Maurer can shake off the first-time MLB jitters and setbacks and offer up something more. Beavan has already been through the first-time stuff, so there’s little to hope he can “get over” on that front in bettering his game. It will be interesting to see how Maurer does against the Rangers on Sunday.
Another early implosion and the Mariners could be forced to look elsewhere. Danny Hultzen is in Class AAA and on the same rotation schedule, but his pitch counts and innings have been limited and at this stage, you have to wonder whether his arm is strong enough to last five innings in a big league game. That could change in another week or two and the Mariners will have the luxury of giving every pitcher an extra day’s rest with an off-day finally coming up on Monday. So, if they wanted to swap out Hultzen for Maurer, that turn in the rotation would be eight days from now.
Harang had been staying in shape the past week throwing at San Diego State. He threw a simulated game against live hitters there as he tried to maintain the arm strength he’d built up in spring training with the Dodgers.
“I went and threw a bullpen on Sunday up there and then a couple of days ago I threw five innings against hitters,” he said. “So, I’m just making sure to keep my arm strength up and stay as sharp as possible.”
Right now, he’s just happy to have a team he can call his own. He’s been in limbo ever since the Dodgers traded him to Colorado last week for Ramon Hernandez. Harang said he got a phone call five minutes after that deal telling him the Rockies — who had dealt Hernandez for cost-savings — had designated him for assignment and that he should sit tight as they tried to work out a second deal to offload his salary.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, biting your nails a little bit,” he said. “But it was good. I got to spend some time with my family the night before I took off. I just tried to do what I could working out and throwing wise just to make sure I was ready to go.”
Harang had spent the spring ignoring trade rumor discussions, since the Dodgers had entered camp wiht seven major league starting pitchers and everyone knew they’d be trying to ship off a couple. But with health issues surrounding Zack Greinke and Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers never got around to moving anyone during camp and had to keep all of their options open.
“It was one of those things where they would have to keep us all ready just in case something happened,” Harang said.
Today’s bullpen session for Harang was a bit of a class reunion of sorts. He and Mariners bullpen catcher Jason Phillips teamed together at San Diego State when Harang was a freshman and Phillips a junior soon to be MLB-bound with the Mets, Dodgers and Blue Jays.
“I saw him here a couple of years ago when I came into town,” Harang said. “I played with his younger brother in San Diego and Jason caught me at San Diego State when I was in college, so it was kind of nice. We were joking around in the bullpen, just getting back to the old roots. It was just a good time.”
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