By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — How many arms are enough for the rotation?
“I’m always looking for eight to nine starters,” manager Lloyd McClendon said Friday prior to the Seattle Mariners’ second official workout for pitchers and catchers. “Whether they’re out there (in the clubhouse) or Jack (Zduriencik, the general manager) is going to acquire somebody else, I don’t know. I’m always looking. … You always want to have a surplus.”
All indications suggest Zduriencik and his staff are, in fact, looking at possible additions — with free-agents Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez presumably on the list. But McClendon already has a working list of nine pitchers, among the 35 on the camp roster, ticketed to get stretched out for extended innings over the next six weeks.
The list includes Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Tiajuan Walker, Randy Wolf, Scott Baker, Matt Palmer, Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez. Not necessarily in that order; and the list is subject to change.
“That’s a nice mix,” McClendon said. “There’s some nice arms. I think it’s important to get those starters stretched out because you never know what’s going to happen.
“Look at what happened to Iwakuma. You just never know.”
Iwakuma is expected to miss four to six weeks after being diagnosed earlier this week with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Tentative plans call for Walker to throw a bullpen workout Monday as the first test in gauging his recovery from some minor shoulder soreness.
“Taijuan is fine,” McClendon reiterated. “He had a little soreness. He may be a little bit behind, but there’s nothing pressing on that. He’s throwing fine. He’s moving forward. He’s doing everything he needs to do.”
Point of reference: Felix Hernandez’s first bullpen workout also is scheduled for Monday.
Iwakuma is hopeful he will need just three spring/rehab starts to rejoin the rotation after his injured finger is judged sufficiently healed for mound duty.
That seems optimistic.
“He’s too valuable to rush back,” McClendon cautioned. “We’ve got to make sure he’s at full strength. He’s needs to be able to go out and throw six or seven innings, 80 to 85 to 95 pitches. We’ll do right by Iwakuma.”
Starters rarely reach that pitch count prior to their fifth spring start.
If so, and assuming Iwakuma is able to begin throwing in four weeks (the best-case scenario), that would position him, if all goes well, for a mid-April return.
Catcher Manny Pina, a non-roster invite, made it to camp after resolving his visa issues in departing Venezuela. That leaves veteran reliever Ramon Ramirez, also a non-roster invite, as the camp’s only absentee among the 43 pitchers and catchers. Ramirez is a native of the Dominican Republic.
The 14 infielders and 11 outfielders on the camp roster are required to report by Monday and take part Tuesday in the first full-squad workout.
Make of this what you want, but here are the pitchers’ workout groups as they worked on bunts and pickoffs Friday in PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice):
Group 1: Felix Hernandez, Dominic Leone, Lucas Luetge, Matt Palmer, Stephen Pryor, Erasmo Ramirez, Chance Ruffin and Randy Wolf.
Group 2: Scott Baker, Blake Beavan, Joe Beimel, Nick Hill, Danny Hultzen, Hisashi Iwakuma, Logan Kensing, Mark Rogers and Tom Wilhelmsen.
Group 3: Logan Bawcom, Roenis Elias, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Steve Kohlscheen, Brandon Maurer, Hector Noesi, Fernando Rodney and Carson Smith.
Group 4: Jonathan Arias, Andrew Carraway, Anthony Fernandez, Jimmy Gilheeney, Bobby LaFromboise, Yoervis Medina, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.