With Tacoma moving starter Forrest Snow (1-3, 8.32 ERA) to the bullpen Tuesday, the Rainiers have an opening in their rotation.
Right-hander Brian Sweeney will fill the void left by Snow on Thursday when he starts against Salt Lake at Cheney Stadium. After that, nothing has been decided, Rainiers manager Daren Brown said Tuesday.
“Sweeney will start for us on Thursday,” he said, “and we’ll take it from there.”
When asked if Sweeney was providing a “spot start,” Brown didn’t elaborate, saying only that “he’s going to start Thursday.”
With Snow in the bullpen, Tacoma is left with only four true starting pitchers (Jeff Marquez, Anthony Vasquez, Erasmo Ramirez and Andrew Carraway) plus a couple guys that can provide spot starts (Jarrett Grube and Sweeney).
Unless the Mariners want to see how Sweeney or Grube fare as full-time starters it looks like Tacoma’s fifth starting pitcher will come from outside the Rainiers’ clubhouse.
Speculation about when top prospect Danny Hultzen (6-3, 1.44 ERA) will be promoted to Tacoma from Double-A Jackson has run rampant in the past month, but it appears that moment could be coming soon.
Exactly when, however, is open to speculation.
Jackson is in a tight race for first place at the halfway point of the Southern League season, leading some to believe that Hultzen could make another start or two at Double-A. Jackson has a two-game lead over Huntsville with 12 games before the mid-season break and finishing in first would clinch a postseason berth.
Also, the Mariners might not want the left-hander to make his first Triple-A start at Salt Lake, a big-time hitters’ park, which is where the rotation spot Sweeney is occupying would be needed next.
The Rainiers leave Salt Lake for a four-game series at Sacramento, where a fifth starter would be needed, before returning to Cheney Stadium on June 19.
Add it all up and you get, well, more speculation.