Elated Maurer earns rotation spot
Brandon Maurer, a 22-year-old right-hander who has never pitched above Double-A ball, earned a spot in the Mariners starting rotation on Wednesday as the team opted to send Erasmo Ramirez and Jeremy Bonderman to the Minor Leagues.
Maurer, last year’s Southern League Pitcher of the Year for Jackson, will start the fourth game of the regular season against the A’s in Oakland on Thursday.
Blake Beavan, an 11-game winner last season, earned the other remaining starting spot and will pitch fifth in the rotation, opening against the White Sox in Chicago on Friday.
Veterans Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders had already been announced as the first three starters when the Mariners open the season Monday in Oakland.
The 6-foot-5 Maurer earned his spot with an outstanding spring, giving up just two runs in 20 innings of Cactus League play for a 0.90 ERA with 22 strikeouts and eight walks.
“It’s been a good ride,” an elated Maurer said of his climb from a 23rd-round Draft pick in 2008. “I’ve learned so much every year, turning myself into a pitcher and not just a thrower. This year I’ve actually felt like more of a pitcher than ever, using a two-seam and throwing changeups in fastball counts and being able to throw a slider behind or ahead in the count, different types of sliders. Just going out there and learning how to pitch.”
Maurer is the first Mariners pitcher to jump from Double-A to a starting spot with the Major League club since Mike Hampton and John Cummings both made the leap in 1993.
The youngster received word from manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis in a brief meeting Wednesday, then immediately called his parents in Costa Mesa, Calif., to pass along the news.
“My mom was getting a little choked up and my dad was just rambling on about random stuff,” he said. “But it was good.”
Maurer then celebrated briefly with some of the Minor League teammates that he’s lived with and shared time with all spring, including fellow pitching prospects Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, all of whom were expected to get to Majors ahead of Maurer.
“We’re always rooting each other on,” Maurer said. “We have been this whole time and we still will. It’s awesome to have a good group of friends like that to just rally behind you.”
Ramirez pitched three controlled innings in a Minor League intrasquad game on Wednesday morning, but clearly isn’t ready to start again yet as he was limited to five outs with two hits, three walks and three strikeouts.
He’ll begin the season instead in Tacoma, which is where Bonderman also will likely pitch if he accepts his Minor League assignment.
Bonderman, 30, is attempting to return to the Majors for the first time since 2010 due to extensive arm and shoulder problems. He was told the news Wednesday morning and will be given a day or two now to decide whether to continue his comeback in the Minors or announce his retirement.
The moves put the Mariners roster at 30, with decisions still pending on the fifth outfielder and final bullpen spot.