By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
The Mariners face a decision in their rotation after getting disappointing outings Tuesday from Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he planned to discuss available options — none of which appear appealing — with general manager Jack Zduriencik.
Ramirez allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings against the Braves in a spot start after getting recalled from Class AAA Tacoma. Walker struggled through 56 pitches in two innings in a rehab start for the Rainiers.
“Taijuan didn’t throw it very well,” McClendon said. “We’ve got an off-day (today). We’ve got a chance to rest some guys, and we’ll see where we are.”
The decision doesn’t have to be made until Tuesday.
The Mariners plan to start Chris Young, Roenis Elias and Felix Hernandez for the first three games at Tampa Bay. Ramirez’s spot comes around Monday, but thanks to the off day, Hisashi Iwakuma could pitch Monday on regular rest.
One other possibility: Replace Ramirez on the roster with a reliever and cover the entire game with the bullpen. The likely starter, in such a scenario, is Tom Wilhelmsen.
For now, the Mariners appear unlikely to ride again with Ramirez, who escaped with a no-decision Tuesday when homers by Stefen Romero and John Buck combined with strong bullpen work for a 7-5 comeback victory.
“You’ve got to make quality pitches,” McClendon said, “and he just didn’t make many quality pitches. He got behind and was in the middle of the plate.”
Walker yielded just one run and one hit at El Paso in the second start on his latest rehab assignment for a sore shoulder. But he walked four and hit a batter.
“My understanding is he’s healthy,” McClendon said. “He just pitched like (bleep). That’s the way it goes.”
Asked if he believed Walker needs one more rehab start, McClendon answered: “Or more.”
Wilhelmsen said he had just one thing in mind Tuesday night when summoned to start the fourth inning as the replacement for an ineffective Ramirez.
“I’m immediately thinking I’m going to get an at-bat,” Wilhelmson said. “That was the first thought in my head. That it’s going to happen in Atlanta.”
No, Wilhelmsen, 30, has never batted in a professional career that began in 2003.
“I grew up rooting against Atlanta,” said Wilhelmsen, who spent his youth as a Mets fan. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to hit a home run. I know it. It’s in the stars.’”
Wilhelmsen pitched two scoreless innings, the first off six shutout innings by the bullpen. He did not, however, get an at-bat.
Stefen Romero drew duty as the clean-up hitter for the first time in his big-league career Wednesday when McClendon chose to stock the lineup with right-handed hitters against Braves lefty Mike Minor.
The move came one day after Romero fueled a comeback victory with a three-run, pinch-hit homer.
“Somebody’s got to hit there,” McClendon said. “We have to fill a lineup out. There’s no significance to it, trust me. I don’t have (Barry) Bonds, so it’s going to be Romero.”
It was pointed out to McClendon that Bonds is available, to which McClendon responded: “Another left-handed hitter.”
Romero delivered two hits as the cleanup hitter and each contributed to a run in the 2-0 victory. He had one of three singles in the fourth, and his one-out triple in the eighth preceded Kyle Seager’s RBI single.
“It’s just to start the game,” Romero said. “If you’re hitting eighth, you could be hitting cleanup in any (particular) inning. My mind-set was, if anybody was on base in scoring position, to drive them in. Nothing really changed, too much, hitting in the fourth spot.”
It was just one year ago Thursday — June 5, 2013 — that the Mariners suffered a remarkable 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 16 innings at Safeco Field.
The game was scoreless through 13 innings before the White Sox scored five times in the 14th. The Mariners answered with five in their half of the inning on Seager’s two-out, two-strike grand slam.
But the Mariners had no answer when the White Sox scored twice in the 16th inning. The combined 12 runs were a major-league record in a game where the two teams were scoreless through nine innings.