Michael Saunders woke up with a sore neck on Saturday and it’s still bothering him, which is why he’s out of the line-up for the second straight day. Nick Franklin is back in the line-up today. After pinch hitting last night and playing in the field in the ninth inning, it was pretty apparent he’s ready to go. The stitches are still in the knee, but shouldn’t be an issue.
Brandon Maurer may be pitching in relief right now, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge was adamant before Sunday’s game that he believes the young right-hander’s future with the organization will be as a starter.
“I think most people do,” Wedge said. “With the number of quality pitches he has, with his size and strength, I think it’d be a shame if he’s not a starter down the road. You look at his repertoire of pitches and his stuff, it’s what he should be.”
Wedge has always preached about the idea of never giving up on a player too soon. And giving up on Maurer as a starter and making him a full-time reliever seems ludicrous to him.
“Giving up on him shouldn’t even be a question on a guy like that,” he said. “If an organization ever considered taking that option away from a guy like that would be crazy, what is he 23 years old?”
Yes, Maurer just turned 23 on July 3. His first stint as a starter in the big leagues wasn’t a great success. With an injury to Erasmo Ramirez and the opt-out clause of Jon Garland, Maurer earned a spot in the starting rotation on the opening day roster thanks to a stellar spring training.
That didn’t carry over into the regular season, where Maurer’s lack of experience, having made the move from Double A to the major leagues was readily apparent. He made starts, going 2-7 with a 6.93 ERA before being sent down to Triple A Tacoma.
Maurer made 10 starts with the Rainiers, going 3-4 with a 5.21 ERA and was called up to pitch in long relief.
“He’s learned a lot this season,” Wedge said. “I like the fact that he’s in the big league and in the bullpen because he sees it from a different light. I think that’s going to help him too in his development.”
One of the biggest issues is Maurer coming in ready to pitch. Wedge hopes that the time in the bullpen will teach him that. As a starter, first innings were a problem for Maurer. Opponents were hitting .449 with a 1.232 in that first inning and he gave up 17 runs in 9 2/3 innings for a 15.83 ERA.
Wedge hopes the immediacy of pitching in the bullpen will help Maurer come out and pitch with purpose immediately. As a reliever, Maurer never knows when he’s going to pitch and what the situation will be, but he has to be ready. And he doesn’t have a ton of innings to figure it out.
“The first pitch of ball game is an important as anything else, the first hitter of the game is important as anything else,” Wedge said. “He’s got to figure that out. He had to fight through those first couple of innings to figure out. Those are the limitations he needs to figure out.”