BY Adam Lewis 12:56PM 03/21/2014

Ramirez stars; Mariners rotation still not set

By the numbers, there is little doubt pitcher Erasmo Ramirez belongs in the Mariners injury-depleted rotation. First-year Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, however, still has reservations.

Ramirez went six innings and gave up four hits and no runs in Seattle’s 3-0 win Thursday against the Cubs. He struck out four, walked none and showed a deceptive change-up while Chicago’s lineup failed to capitalize on the pitches he left up in the strike zone.

Afterward, Ramirez returned to the bullpen and threw 20 more pitches to build arm strength.

“I thought he was OK,” McClendon said. “Still we have to make better 0-2, 1-2 pitches. He got some balls up in the zone that he got away with. On any given day, you don’t get away with those pitches. Even in wins there are things that you need to correct and you need to talk about, but for the most part he threw the ball okay.”

In Cactus League play, Ramirez has been the staff ace. In four starts (five appearances), he is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and a .91 WHIP. He’s thrown 18.2 innings and struck out 14 while walking two.

It’s a small sample size that came partly against players who will begin the regular season in the minor leagues.

Is it enough to make a rotation that will begin the season without No. 2 Hisashi Iwakuma — third in Cy Young voting in 2013 — and Taijuan Walker, the top prospect in the organization?

“I’m not ready to answer any of those things yet,” McClendon said.

After a strong 2013 spring training, a triceps injury kept Ramirez, 23, from joining the Mariners until July. Minus a few late-season performances, he was mostly underwhelming after arriving (5-3 with a 4.98 ERA in 13 starts, including three in which he walked four batters).

“That’s what I love — to just be healthy again and not sore like last year,” Ramirez told reporters Thursday.

McClendon would love if Ramirez regained the form he showed with the Mariners in 2012 (1-3, 3.36 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 59 innings) after making his major league debut at 21.

For Ramirez, who’s listed at 5-foot-11 but would be lucky to measure at 5-foot-10 wearing shoes, it’s all about staying healthy. The Nicaraguan has never thrown more than 152.2 innings in a season at any level since he signed with the Mariners as an amateur free agent in 2007.

Mariners vs. Padres on TV

Those wanting another peek at the rotation competition won’t need a subscription to MLB.TV or a radio when the Mariners face the Padres at 7:05 p.m. Friday on Root Sports at Peoria Stadium. Left-handed pitcher James Paxton is to make his fifth start.


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