By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Just one more day until games that don't count. The days will get longer here starting Thursday as morning drills will be followed by Cactus League games and we will get our first look at the Mariners in game situations. Competitions will start and the roster, slowly but surely, will begin to form as questions of both performance and health begin to to be answered.
One of the biggest question marks right now is the starting rotation. Coming into camp there was a need for a number three starter, but with Hisashi Iwakuma on the shelf to start the season and Taijuan Walker being brought along slowly because of early shoulder soreness, there are questions at two and five as well.
It would appear the Mariners could be a little short in the starting pitching department to start the season, but the good news is two of the Tommy John guys, Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, have looked good early in camp.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has the pitching mapped out on a white board in his office. Nothing has been released or announced, so it is far from official and no doubt could change at any time, but going forward for the next week this is what he has.
All starters are scheduled to pitch two innings in their first outings. Erasmo Ramirez will start the first Cactus League game against the Padres and is backed up by Blake Beavan, who is also scheduled to pitch two innings. James Paxton, Baker, Wolf and Beavan and Ramirez in a split squad follow through Monday. On Tuesday, Felix Hernandez makes his first start and will be followed by Paxton, Baker, Wolf and again Ramirez/Beavan the next four days.
McClendon said not to read anything into what was on the board, that they would make adjustments to line people up as necessary as the spring progresses. The order hardly means Wolf or Baker or even Ramirez have won spots yet, just that they are going to get starter work.
I would allow for one surprise, however. If Iwakuma is not able to start the season I think there is a good chance that Paxton follows Felix in the second game of the season. Just something to watch for.
Is Iwakuma ahead of schedule?
Iwakuma was originally scheduled to check in with the hand doctor next Monday, but general manager Jack Zduriencik told us on "The Cactus League Report" that appointment has been moved up to Friday at Iwakuma's request.
Iwakuma suffered a strained tendon in the middle finger of his right hand and has been told not to throw for four to six weeks. Monday will mark his third week of not throwing. It would be hard to imagine he will be given the green light to throw Friday, but he could come away from the appointment with a more certain timeline for a return.
'Cactus League Report' recap
The first "Cactus League Report" of the season aired Tuesday night, and if you missed it, well, lucky for you we have a podcast. In addition to the Iwakuma news, Zduriencik discussed his approach to possibly adding another player before spring, Brad Miller talked about having competition at shortstop and Kyle Seager gave us insight into how Robinson Cano could help the Mariners' hitters. We also visited with pitchers Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez and Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.
A quick "CLR" scheduling change: We will be taping just two more shows this spring at the Salty Senorita and they will be on March 4 and 11.
Felix will throw live batting practice on Tuesday. Walker with throw flat ground, after which we could have an idea of when he will throw his next bullpen. Pryor is scheduled to throw his second bullpen since surgery and Brandon Maurer – who is coming back from a few days of a bad back – is scheduled to throw flat ground.
From the give-me-a-break department
Former Mariner Chone Figgins is in Dodgers camp and has a shot to make the team despite missing 2013 after being cut by the Marlins. When asked by Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times what happened in Seattle, he answered:
"It kind of says it all when you have just signed a $38 million contract and they pinch-hit for you in the fourth game."
Colin O'Keefe at Lookout Landing tweeted the highlights from that game. Figgins was lifted for Ken Griffey Jr., who drove in the tying run. What follows next in the game is a short Franklin Gutierrez highlight reel.