Ramirez isn't scheduled to throw a bullpen session until the last week of spring training.

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PEORIA, Ariz. —  Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez won’t be on the Mariners’ opening day roster. The Mariners pretty much expected that when his recovery from a minor lat strain started taking as long as a recovery from a regular lat strain.

With two offdays mixed into the six games following their opening series against the Indians at Safeco Field, there isn’t a need for a fifth starter in the rotation. It would give Ramirez extra time to build arm strength and log innings on a rehab stint. And yet, that might not be enough.

It appears now that Ramirez might not be ready to go when the fifth starter would be needed on April 11. The little right-hander has yet to throw on off mound making a timetable for a return by then seem highly unlikely.

“He’s still playing catch, building up arm strength,” manager Scott Servais said. “We are kind of looking for him to have a bullpen here at the end of the month. Probably the last week we’re down here. And then start building from there. That last week of spring training, there’s not a whole lot of action going on anywhere. He’ll still be in the bullpen stage at that point, then when he needs to get in games, we’ll maybe send him back down here or out in the system somewhere and build his innings that way.”

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Following a typical throwing progression, that doesn’t put Ramirez returning by April 11 or even the following week.

“Could he make it back by then? That would be very aggressive,” Servais said. “But that spot comes up five days later, could he make that one? We will play it by ear and trust the medical people.”

The logical move will be either to call up right-hander Rob Whalen or lefty Ariel Miranda from Class AAA Tacoma the day before to make that start.

“I think both of those guys have showed very well,” Servais said. “I liked the way Miranda threw the ball the other night over in Oakland. I thought the secondary pitches were a lot better. Whalen probably had the best curveball I’ve ever seen him have. And really, when you watch a lot of games here in the Cactus League with how dry it is, it’s hard to get the ball to break. The sharpness and lateness to what Whalen had going the other day with the nine strikeouts against the Rockies was very impressive. Either one of those guys could take that turn.”

Servais dismissed any notions that Miranda or Whalen might pitch out of the bullpen.

“I think it’s important to keep them stretched,” he said.  That’s how we view those guys as starting pitchers. The minute you start putting them in the bullpen and now you do have a hiccup in the big leagues — either injury or some guys is really struggling. Then you have — oh this guy is not really stretched out and we can’t go get him. There’s a ton of value in having 2,3,4 guys that you feel comfortable with in Tacoma.”


*** Lefty Sam Moll, who the Mariners claimed off waivers from the Pirates in the offseason, was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays on Saturday. Seattle was trying to push Moll through waivers and outright him to Class AAA Tacoma to create another open 40-man roster spot. Seattle now has three open spots on the 40-man roster.

The need for open spots becomes important as the season nears so the Mariners have the flexibility to add a non-roster player in camp if needed or claim one of several players that will be designated for assignment in the coming week.