Tuesday and Wednesday weren’t stellar for the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation. The lowly Houston Astros racked up 24 runs in two games, roughing up starter Brandon Maurer (two-thirds of an inning, six runs allowed on seven hits) and Blake Beavan (5† innings, five earned runs on 10 hits) in the process and leaving Seattle’s bullpen overworked and depleted.
On Thursday, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made a move to help stabilize the situation, trading for an experienced starting pitcher.
Seattle acquired veteran right-hander Aaron Harang from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for minor league right-hander Steven Hensley. To make room for Harang on the roster, reliever Kameron Loe was designated for assignment. The team now has 10 days to trade, release or outright Loe to the minors if he clears waivers.
Harang, 34, had a 10-10 record with a 3.61 earned run average in 31 starts with the Dodgers in 2012. He pitched 179† innings, striking out 131 batters.
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound right-hander has pitched in 12 big league seasons with a career record of 105-104 and a 4.19 ERA.
Harang was a pitcher of interest for Zduriencik long before Thursday.
“I had several discussions with the Dodgers over the winter, knowing they had an excess of pitching,” Zduriencik said. “Even during spring training, we had discussions. When he was moved to the Rockies, I had some discussions with Colorado about things. We got it all lined up.”
Well, with Maurer and Beavan both struggling, the addition of Harang gives the Mariners a sixth starting pitcher and some depth. Obviously, one of the three will have to move to the bullpen as a long reliever.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge would not say who that would be.
“He’ll throw a bullpen session (today) and then we’ll decide exactly what his role is going to be,” Wedge said of Harang.
Zduriencik wouldn’t drop any hints about Harang’s role either. He did say that Harang has continued his throwing program and threw a simulated game at San Diego State on Wednesday.
“We have to get a feel for where he’s at physically,” Zduriencik said. “We have starters, so the idea he’s going to bump somebody right now, I think is a little premature. But he is a starting pitcher, and if he’s in good shape and his pitch count is where we think it needs to be and his bullpen (session) is successful, we’ll address it after that.”
Realistically, the only way that Harang doesn’t immediately join the starting rotation is if his arm isn’t ready. Then he would start in the bullpen to build arm strength.
Beavan would likely be the long-relief candidate because he has pitched in that role before. Maurer is young and considered a prospect, so the Mariners likely wouldn’t put him in the bullpen. If they make a move with him, it probably would be to Triple-A Tacoma so he could continue his progression as a starter.
With Erasmo Ramirez on the disabled list (strained triceps) and Jeremy Bonderman still building arm strength, the Mariners didn’t have many options for help. And Zduriencik wasn’t going to rush young left-handers Danny Hultzen and James Paxton to the big leagues.
“Our biggest need came about when Erasmo wasn’t able to step up for us,” Zduriencik said. “We didn’t think Jeremy was ready to come up here yet. He still needs to pitch in Triple-A. So you have your ears open. With those two not available right now, we thought bringing someone in like Aaron, who has been a real quality pitcher at the major league level and had a good year last year, it fit well.”
It’s been an interesting few weeks for Harang. He failed to win a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation. He was traded to the Rockies for Ramon Hernandez in a move that was made largely for Colorado to dump Hernandez and pick up $4.25 million from Los Angeles. The Rockies then immediately designated Harang for assignment.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Mariners will pay Harang $1.5 million of his $7 million contract this season.
Zduriencik confirmed there were monetary considerations that had to be worked out this season.
Hensley, 26, was shifted to relief last year and went 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 44 relief appearances between Double-A Jackson and Tacoma. He was selected by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 2008 draft.
Loe was 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA in four appearances. In 6† innings, he had allowed six homers.
“It’s somewhat unusual to do it this early,” Wedge said of the decision to designate Loe. “But again, it’s more of a product of Aaron Harang being available and having the potential to make that move. When you have an opportunity to make a move like that, that you feel can make your big league club better, then you have to do it.”