So who will Mariners go with as their fill-in starter?
The Mariners need to add an extra starting pitcher for a spot start against the Indians in Tuesday’s doubleheader in Cleveland, one of the makeup dates for two rainouts in May.
There are a couple options, but the most likely solution, in my mind, will be bringing young lefty Anthony Vasquez up from Tacoma.
Vasquez, 24, hasn’t pitched since last Tuesday when he went seven innings in a 3-2 loss to Omaha in Cheney Stadium, so he’d be fresh. He is scheduled to go tonight in Reno for the Rainiers, so it’ll be pretty obvious if he gets scratched from that start.
Then again, the Mariners already scratched him from a start for Tacoma on Aug. 1 when they were contemplating a move, but wound up that time opting to put Charlie Furbush into the rotation after originally thinking he would need some time to stretch out after working primarily out of the bullpen for the Tigers.
There isn’t any Furbush in waiting this time. There is Tom Wilhelmsen, who could be a logical candidate given he was starting for Double-A Jackson before getting recalled by the Mariners on Aug. 2.
But Wilhelmsen hasn’t started in four weeks now and just threw three innings of relief on Saturday. And even more critically, he may well be needed again as a long man out of the bullpen in this upcoming stretch.
Jason Vargas goes tonight for Seattle and he’s been erratic of late, then rookie Blake Beavan will start the first game Tuesday. So a bullpen that already had to soak up a lot of innings Saturday, when Furbush got bounced early, isn’t in great position to piece together a game with Wilhelmsen starting and needing considerable relief help, given his longest stint in a month has been three innings of relief.
One way or the other, the Mariners are going to need to add an arm for this run of games. Vasquez seems the most logical solution from Tacoma, though someone will have to be bumped off the 40-man roster if he’s elevated.
I’d figured 21-year-old Erasmo Ramirez might get a shot, even though he’s only recently been promoted to Tacoma, but he started Saturday for the Rainiers. Similarly, veteran Nate Robertson became an un-option when he went Sunday for Tacoma. And Robertson is still coming back from arm surgery this spring anyway.
There are two former Mariners who could conceivably be brought up for one shot. Left-hander Chris Seddon last threw on Thursday, so he’d be right on schedule to start Tuesday. Seddon hasn’t been particularly effective this season, going 8-6 with a 6.43 ERA, but he does have 21 games of Major League experience at age 27, including four starts with the Marlins in ’07.
Seddon pitched 14 games of relief for Seattle last year (1-0, 5.64 ERA).
The other possibility would be Luke French, who at one point would have been the first choice as the next starter in line in Tacoma. But French hasn’t thrown well this season and was designated for assignment two weeks ago to clear room on the 40-man roster for Wily Mo Pena.
He did re-join the Rainiers after clearing waivers, however, and is in the organization and remains an option. He’s 8-8 with a 6.12 ERA this season, but hasn’t pitched since Aug. 12, a 10-day layoff. So I’d consider that one a long shot, though French does have 20 Major League starts on his resume and did relatively well (5-7, 4.83 ERA) last year for Seattle.
Most likely, in my mind, remains Vasquez. The San Antonio, Texas, native is pitching the best of all those candidates and has moved quickly up the ladder since being an 18th round draft pick in ’09 out of USC. He pitched in Class A and AA ball last year, then went 5-7 with a 3.77 ERA in 16 starts at Double-A Jackson this year and has fared even better in Tacoma (4-3, 3.21 ERA in eight starts).
Whether the Mariners make an announcement today or wait until Tuesday to make the roster move — which will require dropping someone else off the 25-man roster — Vasquez’s availability will be obvious based on whether he pitches tonight for Tacoma.
So stay tuned.