When he made the Seattle Mariners opening day roster, Erasmo Ramirez was the youngest player on a big-league team – a 21-year-old who earned a role in the bullpen largely through his spring stats.
Now, he’s 22 and now a Tacoma Rainier, sent down today to rejoin a starting rotation, and manager Eric Wedge has no doubt he’ll return to Seattle as a starting pitcher.
“He did a great job here in different situatons, and there’s no doubt in my mind he can start here,” Wedge said. “Right now, if we needed a spot starter, Erasmo isn’t stretched out enough to give us innings. We’re a month in, and he needed innings.”
In his place in the bullpen, the Mariners dropped veteran Shawn Kelley, who’s now a year and half removed from major elbow surgery.
“I was healthy in spring training, but my arm strength wasn’t all the way back,” Kelley said. “I think it is now. I have more velocity on my fastball, my slider has a sharper break.”
“When the phone rings, I’ll be ready,” he said. “It could be one batter or multiple innings. I feel great, better than when I came up last September.”
As for Ramirez, he’ll likely need three or four starts to be ready to go six innings or more, but that could change depending upon how right-handers Hector Noesi and Kevin Millwood pitch.
As the benching of Chone Figgins shows, the Mariners have patience, but it’s not infinite.