The Tacoma Rainiers opening starting rotation is going to be determined by what happens in major league spring training, and which starting five the Seattle Mariners settle on.
One of the surprises at the Mariners Pre-Spring Training media event was when General Manager Jerry Dipoto indicated that only three starting rotation spots were settled going into spring: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Wade Miley.
That means the Mariners have two open rotation spots to fill from the following group of pitchers: Nathan Karns, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Vidal Nuno, Mike Montgomery, Cody Martin, Joe Wieland. All of these pitchers with the exception of Montgomery have at least one minor league option year remaining.
Those seven names listed above are just the candidates who are on the 40-man roster. Other starting pitchers invited to big league camp include Adrian Sampson, Brad Mills, Donn Roach, and Casey Coleman.
Some of the seven contenders who are on the 40-man roster could make the Mariners as a long reliever – specifically, Nuno and Montgomery come to mind.
My gut feeling says that in the group of Karns, Walker, and Paxton whoever doesn’t make the Mariners rotation will start games in Tacoma.
Cody Martin and Joe Wieland seem all but certain to start the season in the Rainiers rotation – unless one of them blows away the competition during spring training.
We also have some holdovers from last year’s Tacoma rotation: Sam Gaviglio, Stephen Landazuri, and a healthy-again Jordan Pries figure to be in the mix.
Forrest Snow will be back in Tacoma, and he can serve as either a starter or a reliever. With all of these starter candidates, Snow will probably be a reliever to begin the year, and be ready to jump into the rotation when the need inevitably arises.
The most advanced pitching prospect in the organization is Edwin Diaz, who will pitch as a 22-year-old this season. Diaz is ranked the Mariners No. 2 prospect by Baseball America, and he’s already had an extended stint in Double-A: last year he made seven early starts for Class-A Bakersfield, then was bumped up to Jackson. He made 20 starts at the Double-A level, going 5-10, 4.57 with good peripherals: 104 innings pitched, 102 hits, only five home runs, 37 walks and 103 strikeouts.
Look for Diaz to begin the season in Double-A but if he gets on a roll they’ll probably move him up to Tacoma during the season.
Given all of the names in this post, it’s pretty much impossible to guess the Rainiers starting five right now. They’ll figure it all out during spring training.
The Mariners signed 39-year-old major league veteran reliever Joel Peralta to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training.
Peralta was injured for about half of last season with the Dodgers, but he appeared in 33 games and had a 4.34 ERA in 29 innings. He was effective for Washington and Tampa Bay from 2010-2014.
Peralta has always been willing to go to Triple-A when needed: he’s pitched for Salt Lake, Colorado Springs, Omaha, Syracuse, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City. He could end up in the Rainiers bullpen if the doesn’t make the big league club.
We get to the long list of potential Rainiers relief pitchers next week.