By John Boyle
Before spring training started, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said his team wouldn’t rush any of their young pitching prospects to the Major Leagues, but that Seattle also wouldn’t deny its young pitchers a chance to win a job a spring training.
And when the Mariners open their season next week, they will do so with a rookie in their rotation, because Brandon Maurer was impressive enough this spring to earn the No. 4 spot in Seattle’s rotation. Maurer, a 23rd-round pick out of high school in 2008, has emerged as perhaps the biggest surprise of Spring Training for the Mariners (though you could argue that the Mariners ability to actually score runs is a bigger story). Maurer, 22, has never pitched above AA in his minor league career, but last year he pitched so well in Jackson that he was named the Southern League’s pitcher of the year, making it clear that the Mariners had more than just a “Big Three” of James Paxton, Taijaun Walker and Danny Hultzen when it came to big-time pitching prospects.
The Mariners rotation will be Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Maurer and Blake Beavan. The Mariners also announced that RHP Erasmo Ramirez, who earlier in spring was a candidate for the starting rotation, was optioned to AAA Tacoma, while right-hander Jeremy Bonderman was re-assigned to minor league camp.