PEORIA, Ariz. – As the offseason progressed and the Seattle Mariners acquired starting pitcher after starting pitcher, Blake Beavan wondered where he fit in.
First Hisashi Iwakuma, then Hector Noesi, and finally Kevin Millwood.
“It’s pretty hard for a rookie to look around and see everybody they signed and still want to think that you have a shot,” said Beavan, who pitched in 15 games last year for the Mariners after being called up on July 3. “But being as competitive as I am, I never let anything try to get to me too much. I just try to stick with what I do and come to camp ready to throw strikes.”
Beavan did that, and found out Wednesday exactly where he fits as the Mariners announced the rest of their starting rotation after the previously anointed top two of Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas.
Beavan will be the Mariners’ No. 4 starter.
He’s right behind Noesi, who was acquired along with Jesus Montero in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees, and just ahead of Millwood, a 37-year-old who signed as a minor league free agent.
The odd men out, for now, were Iwakuma, a Japanese import signed in January, and Erasmo Ramirez, a 21-year-old and one of the M’s top prospects.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge announced that Iwakuma, who has a contract worth a guaranteed $1.5 million and more than $3 million in incentives, will start the season in a long-relief role. Ramirez could be headed to Triple-A Tacoma.
Many expected the 30-year-old Iwakuma to land a starting job considering his success in Japan, where he was 107-69 in 11 seasons, if he showed no ill effects from a sore right shoulder that plagued him last season. Iwakuma said he feels fine, but got off to a slow start in the spring (he is 1-1 with a 3.75 earned-run average in 12 innings).
Felix Hernandez allowed seven earned runs over five innings in his final spring training start and the Seattle Mariners were roughed up by the Chicago White Sox 13-8 in Peoria, Ariz.
Hernandez’s next start will be Wednesday, when the Mariners open the season against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo.