By Kirby Arnold
The Mariners just sent out word that Doug Fister has been pulled from his scheduled start Monday against the A’s in Phoenix. No, Jarrod Washburn won’t be starting that game.
No reason has been given, but Fister will stay in Peoria and pitch in a minor league game. Jason Vargas, who was scheduled to follow Fister against the A’s, will start that game for the Mariners, who also plan to pitch Sean White, Jesus Colome, Kanekoa Texeira and Brandon League. Right-hander Chris Kirkland, who pitched parts of the past two seasons with the Everett AquaSox, also is on the travel roster for Monday.
Why would the Mariners have changed their minds with Fister?
Could they plan to make him the No. 4 starter and pitch him April 8 in the finale of the opening series at Oakland? Makes sense that they wouldn’t want him to face the A’s on Monday and again 10 days later. It also makes sense that they rather pitch him in the fourth game of the season against the A’s instead of the fifth game against the Rangers, a team that can pummel a young right-hander in that launching pad in Arlington, Texas. That would put left-hander Jason Vargas, who’s had a great spring, into the fifth spot and work the opener of the three-game weekend series at Texas on April 9.
Or could it be that Fister just isn’t ready to join the rotation after taking a line drive off his pitching forearm March 19? The Mariners say Fister is fine, but he threw only 30 pitches over two innings in a minor league game on Friday. He’d probably throw 55 or so pitches Monday, then about 75 in his next start before the regular season begins.
The only other viable starting candidate in the major league camp is left-hander Luke French, who threw 69 pitches over four innings Friday against the Reds, allowing four hits, a walk and two earned runs.