Brandon Maurer is the first AA pitcher in 20 years to start the season in the Mariners rotation and will be the No. 4 starter while Blake Beavan will be the fifth starter.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Mariners pitching prospect Brandon Maurer made a beeline for his cellphone moments after stepping out of his manager’s office.
He didn’t crack a smile, nor hesitate for an instant as he retrieved the phone from his locker, hurried past a group of reporters and found a quiet corner outside the clubhouse. Maurer knew that his making the Mariners’ starting rotation straight out of Class AA ball Wednesday would spread like wildfire across the Internet, and he wanted his family to find out about it firsthand.
And once they were done sharing their emotions, Maurer, 22, reflected on their conversation and what it took for him to become the first AA pitcher in 20 years to start the season in the Mariners rotation.
“It was good,” Maurer said of the call home to Newport Beach, Calif. “I think my mom was kind of getting choked up and my dad was just rambling on about random stuff.”
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Both were left scrambling to make flight reservations from the Los Angeles area to Oakland, where Maurer will start next Thursday night against the Athletics. The Mariners have Maurer slotted fourth in the rotation, ahead of Blake Beavan in the fifth and final spot.
The decision to put Maurer fourth is purely for his comfort level. He also won’t have to face the power-laden White Sox next Friday at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
“I feel like it’s a good spot for him,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s the final day in Oakland, it’s a day game. So, I feel like it’s a good spot for him in regard to that it’s someplace he’s been settled in for a few days and he can get up and come to the ballpark.”
After deciding the final two rotation spots, the Mariners optioned pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to Class AAA and reassigned Jeremy Bonderman to the minor-league camp. Bonderman has yet to tell the team whether he’ll accept the assignment or retire, but Wedge said he hopes he sticks with it and feels he could pitch in the majors this season.
The choice on Maurer wasn’t all that tough for Wedge once Jon Garland was granted his release last week and the other pitchers could not get their arms strong enough.
“He came in here and he took it,” Wedge said of Maurer. “He had a great camp. You’re talking about a young man that has multiple plus-pitches. And the way it worked out, he faced a lot of big-league lineups.”
Wedge also said the call on Beavan was an easy one given his prior rotation experience and the offseason work he did to alter his delivery.
“One thing about Blake is, he’s never satisfied,” Wedge said. “He’s always working to get better. And he finds a way to win ballgames.”
Maurer just made the biggest jump from the minors to Seattle’s opening-day rotation since Mike Hampton and John Cummings both did it out of Class A back in 1993. But he said he took so much more away from his first big-league camp than merely making the rotation.
“It’s definitely been a huge learning experience. Having success is a positive part of that, I guess, but (it’s also about) trying to go out there and just battle through every game and work on pitches and get where I need to be for the season.”
And that work began well before camp opened. Maurer was the club’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, when he went 9-2 with a 3.20 earned-run average in 24 starts. He also struck out 117 batters in 134-2/3 innings.
This spring, he went 3-1 with an ERA of 0.90 in six outings while striking out 22 batters in 20 innings.
“I’ve learned so much every year just turning myself into a pitcher and not just a thrower,” Maurer said. “So, going out there this year, I actually felt like more of a pitcher than I have ever. Using the two-seam (fastball) and throwing change-ups in fastball counts and being able to throw a slider ahead or behind in the count. Different types of sliders. Just going out there and learning how to pitch.”
Among the first to congratulate Maurer were Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, his AA teammates last season and current spring-training housemates.
“We’re always rooting each other on,” Maurer said. “We have been this whole time, and we still will. It’s great to have a good group of friends like that to just rally behind you.”
• Felix Hernandez struggled with control at times, but still completed six innings of three-run ball in a 10-7 victory over the Dodgers on Wednesday that capped the Mariners home schedule of Cactus League play. Hernandez threw 97 pitches and declared himself ready to start Monday.
• Wedge was ejected in a spring-training game for the first time in his career when he left the dugout to argue with plate umpire Seth Buckminster in the sixth inning after the ump began chirping back and forth with Hernandez.
• Michael Morse hit his eighth home run this spring in the second inning off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. That ties Mike Wilson‘s 2009 mark for the most Cactus League homers by a Mariner.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
|Amezaga 2b||3||0||1||0||F.Gutierrez cf||3||0||0||0|
|Lilly p||1||0||1||2||C.Wells cf-rf||2||0||0||0|
|R.Pattersn p||0||0||0||0||M.Saundrs rf||3||0||0||0|
|P.Hoenke ph||0||1||0||1||En.Chavez cf||2||1||1||1|
|H.Nelo p||0||0||0||0||K.Morales 1b||3||2||2||0|
|E.Herrra rf||2||0||1||0||Tenbrnk 1b||1||1||1||3|
|J.Pederson rf||3||0||0||1||Morse dh||1||1||1||2|
|Hairston 3b||3||0||2||0||Shpch ph-dh||1||0||0||0|
|Rthrfrd pr-3b||2||0||2||2||J.Montero c||4||0||2||1|
|VanSlyk 1b-lf||3||0||0||0||Bay lf||3||1||1||0|
|J.Garcia lf||1||0||0||0||Ackley 2b||4||2||2||0|
|Federowicz c||2||0||0||0||Andino ss||3||1||2||1|
|M.Wallach c||3||0||0||0||C.Taylor ss||1||0||0||0|
|N.Buss cf||3||1||1||0||B.Miller 3b||2||1||0||0|
|Los Angeles||010 002 040||—||7|
|Seattle||201 106 00x||—||10|
E — Ackley (2). DP — Los Angeles 1, Seattle 3. LOB — Los Angeles 8, Seattle 4. 2B — Lilly (1), Hairston Jr. (3), N.Tenbrink (1). 3B — Ackley (2). HR — Morse (8). SB — Bay (2). S — Kershaw.
|Kershaw L, 2-3||3||5||3||3||1||2|
|F.Hernandez W, 1-1||6||9||3||3||1||3|
HBP — by F.Hernandez (Van Slyke), by Farquhar (P.Hoenecke). WP — Lilly, R.Patterson. T — 2:43. A — 8,852.
Spring training statistics