When Felix Hernandez pitches against the Oakland Athletics tonight, it will be the first game of the Seattle Mariners’ final 24 this season – about five for each member of the starting rotation.
Except between now and the final game of 2012, the Mariners will use seven starting pitchers, not five.
The team has confirmed that pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Hector Noesi will make two starts each in the final weeks, and that Kevin Millwood and Blake Beavan will give those games up.
The Mariners want to see Ramirez and Noesi after each pitched the final months in Tacoma, without dropping either Millwood or Beavan from the rotation.
“The way (pitching coach) Carl Willis drew it up, Millwood and Beavan get two or three more starts each and Noesi and Ramirez get two apiece,” one Mariners source said.
“That way you see the kids and don’t penalize two guys who have been in your rotation most of the year.”
Millwood, the 37-year-old veteran who signed a $1.25 million deal this spring, has started 27 games and pitched 156 innings, going 5-12 with a 4.27 ERA.
“What would I do if I were a manager? That would depend, if you needed to see more of someone or had seen enough of them. It’s a difficult spot for any manager,” Millwood said of his situation.
“I don’t have the answer. You have to do what’s best for the organization. If I didn’t start again, I’d understand. That said, I want to pitch every fifth day.”
Beavan, 23, came out of spring training as the No. 4 starter and has made 22 starts, pitching 1252/3 innings and going 9-9 with a 5.01 ERA.
He has struggled in his past two starts.
“We’ve created several options, but I can tell you one thing for certain,” Willis said. “Whatever we do, it won’t impact Felix. He’s going to get his start every fifth day.”
Manager Eric Wedge, general manager Jack Zduriencik and Willis worked out the final details Thursday – none would discuss the situation – but the decision has been made.
The Mariners want Hernandez (13-6), Jason Vargas (14-9) and Hisashi Iwakuma (6-3) to keep making their starts every five days.
Millwood and Beavan will each miss two starts but make at least two more themselves. Ramirez (0-2) and Noesi (2-11) will continue to work out of the bullpen but make two starts each.
“We sent Noesi down to help him right himself, and he worked hard in Tacoma,” Wedge said. “The last few games Ramirez pitched with us before he was hurt, he pitched really well, and he pitched well with Tacoma.”
Ramirez, 22, went 6-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts with the Rainiers. Noesi, 25, went 2-6 with a 5.74 ERA in 11 starts.
The bottom line is the Mariners want to see what they have heading into the offseason.
Millwood isn’t likely to return, though he hasn’t even decided whether he’ll pitch again in 2013.
“I’ve loved pitching for Seattle,” he said. “The only issue I’ve had is I’m so far from my kids in Georgia. I scuffle with that.
“In October, I’ll have the kids, I’ll go hunting, do some relaxing. At some point, I’ll realize I miss the game – or that I’d be content to do whatever I’m doing then until I’m on the other side of the grass.”
As Seattle looks ahead, it can count on Hernandez and Vargas for 2013, but Iwakuma is only signed through this year.
That means Beavan, Noesi and Ramirez could all be in the mix to join the rotation next spring – along with such youngsters as Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
Seeing a few more starts from Noesi and Ramirez would give the team a better feel for the future.
This winter Zduriencik might well drop a few pitchers on the trade market, packaging a deal for offense. What he and other teams see from the Seattle rotation over the final 24 games could impact the roster for email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue