Pitcher Brandon Maurer has maintained a 0.90 ERA this spring in his bid to make the Mariners' starting rotation. (AP)
By Brent Stecker
It's looking more and more likely that when the Mariners open the MLB season in six days at Oakland, 22-year-old Brandon Maurer will be a member of the starting rotation. And as surprising as it may sound, the right-hander's success is no shock to the Mariners organization.
Mariners insider Shannon Drayer told 710 ESPN Seattle's Brock Huard and Bob Stelton that the team has made all the right moves with Maurer since drafting him five years ago.
"As far as the organization goes, they know what they've had with him for a while," Drayer said. "He has grown up in this organization. He has spent five professional seasons in the Mariners organization, so they know him well."
Maurer has been spectacular this spring -- 20 innings pitched, 0.90 ERA, seven walks, 22 strikeouts -- but he was impressing people before the exhibition games even started.
"Maurer made a great impression on a lot of the hitters early in camp," Drayer said. "A lot of the hitters came away very impressed with him the first week of spring training -- he was showing it as early as then. He's impressed his teammates at every step of the way."
His performance has brought to mind memories of another spring training surprise -- Michael Pineda, who pitched his way into the Mariners rotation and became an All-Star in 2011.
"His spring numbers are actually better than Michael Pineda's in 2011 when nobody thought he was going to make that team," said Drayer. "At this point Pineda was still working on a third and fourth pitch, and Maurer's already got them. He's a more mature, more advanced pitcher."
Maurer's ability to throw five pitches has gone a long way, as well.
"This is a guy who at 22 already has four to maybe even five finished pitches, and he knows how to use them. He's shown that he can throw all of his pitches in any count, and that's just a great sign of maturity," Drayer said.
And that's also why he's likely to leapfrog Seattle's big three pitching prospects -- Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton -- to the majors.
"What's interesting about him is unlike Danny Hultzen or James Paxton, who came from college ... or unlike Taijuan Walker, who was a phenom, he came to organization as a 17-year-old right out of high school who had a good arm and (profiled as) having good stuff," said Drayer. "(The Mariners have) molded him into this."