Over the winter the Mariners had a projected rotation anchored by two all-star pitchers, King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma. The third and fourth starters were to be two rookies, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, both of whom had strong showings in September of 2013. The question was who would be the fifth starter. The leading candidates were Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, free agent Randy Wolf, Blake Beavan, and Hector Noesi. Surely one of those five would step up.
But the best laid plans of mice and men, along with baseball general managers, often go wrong. Iwakuma had an injury and would miss the start of the season, Walker developed arm problems and Paxton, two starts into the season, went on the DL. Randy Wolf did not want to sign a forty day contract for the beginning of the season and the only other potential starter to step up was Ramirez.
Seattle was lucky to pick up Chris Young, released by Washington just prior to end of spring training. He is 5-2, lucky indeed for Seattle.
So Seattle was left with Felix, Ramirez, Young, and surprising rookie Roenis Elias, a 25 year old Cuban refugee who had not pitched above double A. Seattle also got lucky with Elias.
Iwakuma is back; he, Felix, Elias, and Young are pitching well. But the fifth spot remains a black hole. Maurer was 1-4 in seven starts with a horrendous 7.52 ERA before the Mariners put him into a tugboat and sent him to Tacoma. Erasmo Ramirez has been recalled and is pitching today against Atlanta. He is 1-4 in six starts with a 6.00 ERA.
Where would the Mariners be with a fifth starter who could at the least be a .500 pitcher? The Mariners are 29-28. Take away the 2-8 combined records of Maurer and Ramirez and they are 27-20. It shows how important a fifth starter is. If Felix is the ace, the pitcher who can end losing streaks, then Maurer and Ramirez are the jokers in the deck, killing chances for a win streak.
It is well known the Mariners have no number four hitter and are truly in need of a bat. But a fifth starter might be the real need.