PEORIA, Ariz. — Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez will be first on the mound Thursday when the Seattle Mariners open their 33-game Cactus League schedule against campus co-tenant San Diego at Peoria Stadium.
Ramirez, 23, is slotted for the first two innings in what amounts to the beginning of his bid to remain in the starting rotation. He was 5-3 with a 4.98 earned-run average last season in 14 games.
The Mariners have their pitching tentatively lined up for their first three games.
Left-hander James Paxton will start Friday against the Padres, while right-hander Scott Baker will start Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Paxton and Baker, like Ramirez, are in the first tier of candidates, along with Taijuan Walker, for slots in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Paxton and Baker are also scheduled for two innings.
Plans call for right-hander Blake Beavan to follow Ramirez on Thursday in a piggyback start for two innings. Right-hander Matt Palmer will fill a similar role in Friday’s game behind Paxton.
Piggyback starts are when a pitcher gets a starter’s full warm-up time before entering the game. If the starter exits early, a reliever usually is summoned to bridge the gap.
Also scheduled for one inning in Thursday’s opener: Logan Kensing, Lucas Luetge, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel and Danny Farquhar.
Scheduled for one inning Friday: Nick Hill, Zach Miner, Carson Smith, Charlie Furbush and Andrew Carraway.
Scheduled for one inning Saturday: Bobby LaFromboise, Mark Rogers, Yoervis Medina, Stephen Kohlscheen, Ramon Ramirez, Jonathan Arias and Logan Bawcom.
The Mariners also have set their tentative pitching plans and lineups — but not their batting orders — for Tuesday’s intrasquad game, which likely will go four or five innings.
Left-hander Roenis Elias will start for one side, followed by Hector Noesi, James Gillheeney, Bawcom and Arias.
Left-hander Anthony Fernandez will start for the other side, followed by Carraway, Kohlscheen and Chance Ruffin.
The tentative lineups:
C Jesus Sucre, 1B Jesus Montero, 2B Ty Kelly, SS Brad Miller, 3B Nate Tenbrink, LF Cole Gillespie, CF James Jones, RF Stefen Romero and DH Chris Taylor; and C Manny Pina, 1B Ji-Man Choi, 2B Carlos Triunfel, SS Nick Franklin, 3B Gabriel Noriega, LF Jabari Blash (up from minor league minicamp), CF Abraham Almonte, RF Xavier Avery and DH Burt Reynolds.
Justin Smoak created a minor stir when, after avoiding arbitration, he characterized first base as his job to lose with the Mariners’ offseason additions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.
It turns out Smoak was correct.
“I told him he’s my first baseman,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I told him that this winter. Having said that, he still has to go out and perform. I like what I see from him (this spring). He’s doing a pretty darn good job.
“He’s come here in great shape, and he’s making the (necessary) adjustments at the plate. His (batting practice) is a lot crisper now. He’s taking BP with a purpose. ...We might have something.
“It’s sitting there, and we’ve got to get it out of him.”
Sunday’s highlights included a significant step for right-hander Stephen Pryor in his recovery from a torn back muscle that forced him to miss almost all of last year.
He had his first bullpen session: just 20 pitches, all fastballs, but all positive.
“At this point,” Pryor said, “I don’t think there is a schedule. If I throw five bullpens and feel really good, maybe I’ll go into a game. Maybe it takes seven. I don’t know at this point.”
Pryor, 24, was 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA over 26 relief appearances as a rookie in 2012. He had seven scoreless outings last season, covering 7 innings, before suffering the injury in mid-April.
“It’s going to be a day-to-day adjustment thing,” he said. “See how it goes from there. … It felt good today. I didn’t have any setbacks. That’s always a positive.”
Hernandez threw his first session of live batting. Such sessions seldom generate a lot of swings, but what few swings there were weren’t good. ... Right-hander Brandon Maurer reported a lessening of the back tightness that forced him to be scratched Saturday from a scheduled session of live batting practice. But the improvement wasn’t as sufficient as had been hoped to allow him to throw a bullpen workout. He’ll be reevaluated Monday. … Pryor says he’s down 10 pounds from last year and 20 from the end of 2012. His secret: “It’s portions. Not hitting Golden Corral.” … Who knows how much it means, but as the “incumbent” — that’s McClendon’s term — shortstop Miller gets to take batting practice with the rest of the projected starting infield of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Smoak.bob.dutton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners