By Shannon Drayer
It was tough not to see this coming – especially in recent days – but the Mariners have made it official, announcing that Brandon Maurer has made the starting rotation. Maurer will slot into the fourth spot in the rotation and make his first big-league start Thursday in Oakland.
The team also announce that Erasmo Ramirez has been optioned to Triple-A and Jeremy Bonderman re-assigned to minor-league camp. The rotation heading into the season will be Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Blake Beavan and Maurer. Ramirez will be sent to Triple-A to build up as a starter and there has been no word yet if Bonderman will go to the minors. He did not have an out clause in his contract so he cannot decline the assignment and try to catch on with another team. His options are to report or to retire and the hope is he will choose to continue his comeback in Tacoma.
As for Maurer, he was thrilled to get the news. He left Eric Wedge's office after being told he was in the rotation and headed out back behind the clubhouse to call his family, his girlfriend and his best friend. While he was making the calls, three heads popped out of the roll-up service door looking for Maurer. Among them were Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, both with big smiles on their faces. Maurer was not surprised to see them come over from the minor-league side just minutes after he received the news.
"We've always rooted each other on," he said. "They have always been great friends. I would say it is awesome but it is kind of normal for them to do that. I would do that for them, too."
Brandon Maurer, center, poses for a picture with teammates Brad Miller, left, and Stefen Romero before a game at Safeco Field last September. (Shannon Drayer)
The trip to Safeco was an eye opener for Maurer. Coming into his first spring training on the major-league side his goal of course was to make the club. He had a good idea of what he needed show the Mariners to have a shot.
"Definitely that I am a mature pitcher," he said. "I know how to control the strike zone and also that I can work out of battles and show that I am consistent."
He did that from start to finish this spring, impressing not only the manager and coaches but teammates as well.
"Three-2 slider, 3-2 curve, I was like, 'Whoa. This guy is good,' " Jesus Montero said after catching Maurer's final Cactus League start.
"He showed me he is not afraid," Montero continued. "He can do it, he can throw those pitches. He can play in the big leagues, right now. He is a good pitcher."
A good pitcher who has climbed his way steadily through the organization. His performance this spring is not a surprise to anyone in the organization. They know him. He has been in this organization since he was 17 years old. He learned to pitch under their watch. The turning point, according to farm director Chris Gwynn, came last season.
"The light went on last year in late May and he started to understand both sides of the plate," Gwynn said. "He could already throw four pitches for strikes but he had no purpose behind every pitch. He figured that out, and look at him now."
His willingness to learn and to change his offseason work is what has put him where he is now. The reward will be a start April 4 in Oakland with plenty of friends and family on hand.
Today was a very good day for Brandon Maurer.