SEATTLE — It’s all but certain that lefty Ariel Miranda will get the call next week from Triple-A Tacoma when the Mariners (finally) require a fifth pitcher for their rotation.
It’s the logical move.
Not only did Miranda, 29, actually lead the Mariners last year in starts and innings pitched, he was pretty good through the season’s first three months: 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 17 starts.
Miranda is also on the club’s 40-man roster, which is no small consideration because whomever the Mariners summon to serve as their fifth starter might be no more than a placeholder.
Erasmo Ramirez should be ready to return from the disabled list by the end of the month. Since Miranda still has options, he can simply be sent back to Tacoma without being sent through waivers.
For all that, there’s another veteran starter at Tacoma, a familiar name, who bears watching: right-hander Christian Bergman, 29, has not allowed a run over 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts for the Rainiers.
It was much the same last year, when Bergman, seemingly a retread signed to serve as organizational depth, opened the season by winning his first five starts at Tacoma while compiling a 2.17 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
That earned Bergman an early May promotion when the Mariners sent out an APB for help to their injury-ravaged rotation. He responded by providing serviceable duty for nearly two months.
Bergman permitted three or fewer earned runs in six of his eight starts. Those other two starts? They were disastrous and wrecked his ERA, which ended at 5.00 for 13 appearances — eight starts and five relief outings.
Take away those two bad starts, and Bergman’s ERA drops to 2.09. (Yes, that’s playing with numbers, but the point is Bergman was very effective most of the time.)
Here’s the catch: Bergman is not on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, which makes him a poor short-term fit — i.e., why use a roster spot if you’re just going to send the player back to the minors in a few days?
So for now, Bergman remains organizational depth. Miranda is ready and Ramirez is on the way. But things change, and Bergman is again positioning himself as a viable option if (or, more likely, when) the need arises.
The name of infielder Cesar Izturis will ring a bell with many fans. He played for nine clubs over a 13-year career from 2001-13.
The Mariners weren’t one of those nine clubs, but they signed his son, Cesar Jr., then 16, for $550,000 in 2016. The younger Izturis made his pro debut last season by batting .269 over 63 games in the Dominican Summer League.
“He’s polished and has good instincts,” Baseball America reported earlier this season in rating him as the No. 31 prospect in the Mariners’ system. “He’s an adept situational hitter with outstanding bat control and plate discipline.”
Even so, it was something of a surprise when Izturis got the call last week to report to Tacoma to fill a roster vacancy that resulted when the Mariners recalled utilityman Taylor Motter to the big leagues.
Now, Izturis is a legitimate prospect, but going from the DSL to the PCL amounts to a six-step jump.
Farm director Andy McKay acknowledged the decision resulted mostly from a desire to avoid disrupting the Mariners’ other full-season affiliates, who were just starting their seasons, with a temporary series of “domino moves.”
A quick eye-test earlier this week on Izturis (5 feet 11 and 145 pounds) in pregame drills suggests he’s a fundamentally solid defensive player who needs to get stronger to hold his own at the plate.
Again, a legitimate prospect.
Still, it’s no surprise that, through Wednesday, Izturis had yet to play for the Rainiers, although it’s likely manager Pat Listach will find a late-inning spot for him at some point before he heads back to extended spring training.
The Rainiers scored 11 runs in the ninth inning Tuesday in a 13-0 victory at Fresno (Astros). That’s notable, but big rallies are nothing new in the PCL. Heck, the Rainiers blew a six-run lead Wednesday in a 13-9 loss to those same Grizzlies.
What made Tuesday remarkable is the Rainiers’ rally benefited from eight walks, including six in a row — five with the bases loaded.
The last time a PCL team drew eight walks in an inning was Sept. 4, 1931 when the Hollywood Stars did it against the Los Angeles Angels. Herbert Hoover was president, and Babe Ruth had yet to call his shot.
The six consecutive walks fell one shy of the PCL record.
The San Francisco Seals drew seven straight walks in a 1905 game against the Seattle Siwashes, which was when the PCL was in its third year and clubs played a 225-game schedule.
Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto revealed most of these stats on his twitter account (@CurtoWorld), which is a must-follow for Rainiers and Mariners fans. His daily blog is also full of fun stuff.