It took a 40-pitch bullpen session from Aaron Harang on Friday for manager Eric Wedges and pitching coach Carl Willis to determine he's ready to join the starting rotation.
Before Friday's game, Wedge announced that Harang, who the Mariners acquired in a trade from the Rockies on Thursday, will replace Blake Beavan in the rotation and start on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers.
Beavan will assume the role of long-reliever in the bullpen something the Mariners haven't had this season
"He was up to over 100 pitches in spring training, he threw simulated game the other day, he feels good, he looked good today," Wedge said. "We felt like that was the right thing for him to do. Moving Beavan to the bullpen will give us some length there. Hopefully, it's a win-win."
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As long as his arm was in shape enough, Harang was going to be in the rotation. That's why they traded for him.
Harang, 34, went 10-10 with a 3.61 earned run average in 31 starts with the Dodgers. He pitched 179 2/3 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 with a 4.19 ERA.
"He's a veteran guy," Wedge said. "He knows what he has to do to go out there and be successful. He has a great feel for himself. He's had a tremendous amount of success at the big league level. He had 31 starts last year and he had a pretty good year."
For Harang, he's just happy to be out of the baseball limbo he'd been trapped in for the last week. After failing to make the Dodgers starting rotation out of spring training, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Ramon Hernandez. The Rockies actually had no intention of keeping Harang and designated him for assignment after making the trade.
"Last Saturday I get a call from the Dodgers saying I'm traded to the Rockies and they call me five minutes later and say I'm getting designated," Harang said. "They said, 'we are going to wait around and we are definitely going to try to move you, so just stay ready.’ It was a little nerve-wracking."
So he went home to San Diego spent time with his family and also kept up his throwing regimen at his alma mater - San DiegoState. He threw bullpen sessions and even a simulated game. While he's had enough success in the big leagues to know he would be pitching with a team eventually, the waiting wasn't easy.
"That was the biggest thing," he said. "You hear a lot from your family and friends and they are calling, 'where are you going? what's going on?' I didn't know anymore than they did. It was just finally nice to have a resolution and repack and get ready to go."
Wedge informed Beavan of the decision and the young right-hander handled it like a professional.
"We had a good conversation with him and he understands," Wedge said. "As with all these guys, their mindset is do what's best for this ballclub. That's what you have to love about this team and the individuals on it."
Beavan hasn't been exactly crisp in his first two starts this season, giving up 10 runs on 16 hits in 10 2/3 innings pitched. He's made changes to his mechanics and delivery that have not yielded great results and also made his breaking stuff a little ineffective.
"Blake won 11 games for us last year, but he's still a young pitcher figuring it out," Wedge said. "He needs to continue to improve. Sometimes when you move a guy to the bullpen, they get a different look and a different feel. Maybe that helps him along the way as well."
There was some thought rookie Brandon Maurer might be replaced in the rotation by Harang. Maurer has also struggled posting a 16.20 ERA in two starts, largely because he gave up six runs and last just 2/3 of an inning in his last outing. But Maurer is still a young prospect with exactly two starts of big league experience. The Mariners wouldn't move him to the bullpen to stunt that growth. If he's going to stay in the big leagues, he will start. If not, he will start in the minor leagues.
“I like his arsenal of pitches and his stuff,” Wedge said. “He’s a young guy just getting his feet wet and I believe you’ve got to give him a little bit of time. Blake is a little further along experience-wise, but you have to like the stuff of Maurer. And each time he goes out there, you’ll see him continue to figure things out and improve. You’ve got to stick with guys.”
Gutierrez gets a day off
Franklin Gutierrez was out of the line-up on Friday night, but it had nothing to do with him coming up a little gimpy after trying to make a catch against the wall. Wedge had planned to give Gutierrez Thursday night off but with Michael Saunders hurt, he kept Gutierrez in the line-up.
Gutierrez had started the last five games for Seattle, but has been battling sore hamstrings this season. And with his past injury history, Wedge wanted to rest him. He would still be available late in the game.
"This is just a day off," Wedge said. "I don't want to push it to the point where he takes a step back."
Endy Chavez replaced Gutierrez in center field and at the lead-off spot.
"Endy has done a lot of that and he's an experienced guy," Wedge said.
Chavez has started 213 games at lead-off in his career.
Morse's pinky healing
Michael Morse's broken pinky on his right hand was taped to his ring finger. But the swelling in the area had gone down considerably as he showed off the damage.
"It feels a lot better," he said. "It's gone down a lot."
There is still some swelling and discoloration.
Wedge said the timetable of the three to seven days hasn't changed.
"All the tests have been pretty positive," Wedge said. "We'll take a good look at him in the next couple days and go from there. It's a lot better. All things considered, I think we've dodged a bullet."