MIAMI – Brandon Maurer said he would pitch until they came and took the ball away from him Sunday.
That moment came in the fifth inning after he had allowed his first hit of the game, walked a batter and gave up a bloop RBI single to Donovan Solano.
Still for the Mariners to get that much out of Maurer was a moral victory in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.
Because of a severe back strain, Maurer missed a large portion of spring training. Consequently, his arm strength and stamina were nowhere near what they should be at this point in the season. He was building back up with Class AAA Tacoma. But with injuries decimating the Mariners’ starting rotation, they had no choice but to start Maurer on Sunday in place of an injured Blake Beavan, knowing that Maurer would have a tight pitch limit of around 70 pitches.
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Maurer gave them 63 pitches and more than they could have hoped for on the mound. He was perfect through four innings, showing signs of the pitcher the organization believes he can be.
But it was clear after giving up a one-out infield hit to Garrett Jones in the fifth that he didn’t have much left.
“He was tired,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He was exhausted.”
When asked if he hit a wall in the fifth, Maurer replied, “Yeah, a big one. I ran right into it. I lost my mechanics a little bit there. But I felt good through the first four.”
Maurer was better than good in the first four. The only base runner he allowed was a one-out walk to Marcell Ozuna in the first inning. Maurer quickly erased him by getting Giancarlo Stanton to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
He also struck out Stanton later in the game. It was one of four strikeouts.
“I wish I would have gone a little longer,” he said. “But I got done what I could.”
What made him effective?
“The changeup was probably my best pitch,” he said. “I threw a couple 3-2 changeups and got some good swings and misses on.”
The outing could earn him another start, depending on how McClendon uses the off days Thursday and next Monday. It will definitely keep him in the big leagues.
• As expected, outfielder James Jones was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma to make room for Maurer. Jones played in two games during his call-up and got a hit in his only at-bat. McClendon believes Jones will be back in a Mariners uniform this season.
“I like him,” McClendon said. “I said this before, ‘I don’t think he’s going to knock on the door. I think he’s going to tear the door down when he’s ready.’ He’s a very talented kid, and he’s got a lot of tools to work with.”
• Brad Miller got the day off after starting every game this season. Miller had two hits in his last 18 at-bats and his batting average has fallen to .194 this season. He’s also struck out 21 times – second most on the team.
“I’m just giving him a day off to relax a little bit and clear his mind,” McClendon said. “I think we would all agree that he has some talent. He has some pop in the bat. He’s a plus runner and a plus defender. He just needs a day to relax a little bit. I think he’s going to be just fine.”
• Hisashi Iwakuma threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Sunday. Everything went well, and he is tentatively scheduled to make a rehab start Tuesday for Class AAA Tacoma.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish