The Seattle Mariners are inching ever closer to solidifying their starting rotation for the 2013 season. More decisions will likely be made soon as players are moved to the bullpen, sent to the minors or politely asked to seek employment elsewhere.

Jon Garland is out (via after Seattle was unable or unwilling to guarantee the 33-year-old veteran a spot in the rotation. Garland looked solid during the spring, but was apparently not effective enough to write his name in ink just yet.

Garland’s departure will be a disappointment to those who were rooting for a veteran presence at the backend of the rotation, but the move is not a shock. The opt-out clause in Garland’s contract suggests he anticipated this possibility.

Now the veteran pitcher still has time to catch on with another club. He may just have to wait a little while for a pitcher on another club to get hurt or prove to be short on effectiveness.

So, who is left? The general consensus is that Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders are the top three. That leaves Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, Jeremy Bonderman and the surprising Brandon Maurer.

Beavan was arguably a solid, but unspectacular pitcher in 2012. Through March 23, he has looked very good, posting a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings of work. In his last outing on March 17, Beavan went six innings and only gave up one run on three hits while striking out two.

Ramirez has never been hyped as much as other pitchers in the Seattle system, but he just keeps hanging around. He had a nice outing on March 16, but got tagged for four runs and six hits and a home run in a two-inning appearance in March 21. Ramirez may have his name on the current depth chart, but he will need to be effective in the last few outings.

Bonderman represents that veteran presence that could provide experience to young pitchers in the lineup. When you look at the overall numbers, they aren’t particularly impressive as Bonderman has a 7.20 ERA in 10 innings of work. However, the appearances are getting better, and Bonderman is still around.

Then there is Maurer. Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are all gone from camp, but Maurer is still here with his 1.20 ERA in 15 innings of work. He leads the team with 15 strikeouts in the spring to go with only five walks. The young hurler may very well pitch his way into the rotation.

Picking the eventual starters is tough, only because there is no clear leader at this point. Statistically, Maurer has the best performance of the four this spring, but there may be hesitancy to put a rookie in the rotation.

Of course, the Mariners did it with Michael Pineda a year ago.

In theory, Beavan and Ramirez are the incumbents, but Maurer and his strong pitching may bump one of those players. Garland was arguably pitching better than Bonderman, but Seattle was unwilling to guarantee him a spot. That may not bode well for Bonderman’s eventual fate.

If I were a betting man, I would put my money on bearded Beavan and young Maurer at this point. Ramirez and Bonderman are going to keep it close until the very end.

Let’s just say I would not put a lot of money on this prediction. All predictions are subject to change without notice.

Much can change over the last few days of spring training as outings get longer and management is faced with making tough decisions. Stay tuned.


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