"Surprised" Hisashi Iwakuma left out of Mariners rotation; Blake Beavan in
Japanese pitcher will start the season in long relief, as Seattle named Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi and Kevin Millwood its last three starters.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — As the offseason progressed and the Mariners acquired starting pitcher after starting pitcher, Blake Beavan wondered where he fit in.
First Hisashi Iwakuma, then Hector Noesi, and finally Kevin Millwood.
"It's pretty hard for a rookie to look around and see everybody they signed and still want to think that you have a shot," said Beavan, who pitched in 15 games last year for the Mariners after being called up July 3. "But being as competitive as I am, I never let anything try to get to me too much. I just try to stick with what I do and come to camp ready to throw strikes."
Beavan did that, and found out Wednesday exactly where he fits as the Mariners announced the rest of their starting rotation after the previously anointed top two of Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas.
Beavan will be the Mariners' No. 4 starter. He's right behind Noesi, who was acquired along with Jesus Montero in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees, and just ahead of Millwood, a 37-year-old who signed as a minor-league free agent.
The odd men out, for now, were Iwakuma, a Japanese import signed in January, and Erasmo Ramirez, a 21-year-old and one of the Mariners' top prospects who has yet to pitch in the major leagues.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge announced that Iwakuma, who has a contract worth a guaranteed $1.5 million and more than $3 million in incentives, will start the season in a long-relief role. Ramirez could be headed to Class AAA Tacoma.
Many expected the 30-year-old Iwakuma to land a starting job considering his success in Japan, where he was 107-69 in 11 seasons, if he showed no ill effects from a sore right shoulder that plagued him last season. Iwakuma says he feels fine, but got off to a slow start in the spring (he is 1-1 with a 3.75 earned-run average in 12 innings).
Wedge said the team thinks the bullpen is the best place for him to begin his major-league career.
"He is going to serve as our long guy, as well as middle relief and, quite frankly, I think that's the best way to transition him this year," the manager said.
Through a translator, Iwakuma said he was "really surprised" when he heard the news.
"I am on the team and part of the team, so I do what I have to do for the team," he added. "That's the only thing I think right now."
The Mariners had pegged Noesi as a possible starter as soon as the trade with the Yankees was made, and he reinforced that notion with a spring in which he had a 1.80 ERA in seven innings. He was used primarily as a reliever last year with the Yankees, his first in the big leagues, though he did get two starts.
"It feels good to get that," Noesi said of the spot in the rotation. "I've been working for that since I started in baseball."
Millwood pitched for the Cleveland Indians when Wedge was the manager there in 2005.
"He made the decision for us just by the way he went out and pitched and competed and the stuff that we saw," Wedge said.
That included allowing the Cincinnati Reds one run in five innings Tuesday. Millwood, who pitched for three different teams last year and thought his career might be over, signed a contract worth a guaranteed $1 million if he made the team.
The 14-year veteran said Tuesday's performance was "pretty satisfying."
"To be able to come in and know that I had to perform to win a job," said Millwood, 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 spring innings.
As the No. 5 starter, Millwood will not make the trip to Japan.
Beavan, who went 5-6 as a regular in the Mariners rotation the last three months of the 2011 season, knew nothing was guaranteed.
"It feels great," he said. "It's kind of like a relief."
• The Mariners released right-handed reliever Shawn Camp, a six-year veteran. Camp had a solid spring, allowing two earned runs in 8-1/3 innings. That left Seattle with 38 players in its major-league camp. The Mariners can take only 30 with them to Japan on Thursday morning. Injured Adam Moore and Franklin Gutierrez will join Millwood in not making the trip. Reports that the team waived pitcher Cesar Jimenez have not been confirmed.
• Iwakuma was named as the starter for the team's second exhibition game in Japan against the Yomiuri Giants on Monday. Noesi will start the first one against Hanshin on Saturday.
• Felix Hernandez, getting his final start before taking the hill for Seattle's season opener against Oakland in Japan on March 28, gave up seven earned runs on 10 hits in five innings as the White Sox beat the Mariners 13-8.
Hernandez said he felt fine and that he wasn't sure what happened. "I don't know," he said. "For real, I don't know. ... they hit everything I threw."
Wedge pointed to the hectic nature of the day with the team preparing to leave for Japan and said that might have impacted the play of everyone, including Hernandez.
"He was just behind a little bit and then he had to come in and they were swinging the bats well today," he said. "But we wanted to get him up over 90 pitches and we got him to (92) and that's what we needed to. Get him a couple of bullpen (sessions), and he'll be ready to go."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @bcondotta
|De Aza cf||4||1||1||1||Figgins 3b||2||0||0||0|
|Danks cf||1||0||1||2||Catricala 3b||1||1||1||1|
|GBeckhm 2b||3||1||0||0||Ackley 2b||3||0||0||0|
|TSaladino 2b||2||0||0||0||Kawasaki 2b||1||2||1||1|
|Fukudome rf||4||2||2||2||Ichiro rf||4||1||2||1|
|N.Ciolli rf||2||0||1||1||M.Wilson pr||0||1||0||0|
|Konerko 1b||3||0||2||1||Smoak 1b||3||1||1||0|
|McPhersn pr||3||2||1||0||Liddi 1b||2||0||2||3|
|A.Dunn lf||2||1||1||0||Montero dh||4||0||2||1|
|Willms Jr. pr||1||0||0||0||J.Sucre ph||1||0||0||0|
|Al.Ramirez ss||4||1||3||3||Carp lf||3||0||0||0|
|Olmedo pr-ss||1||2||1||0||Peguero lf||2||0||0||0|
|Lillibridge 3b||4||2||2||2||Olivo c||3||0||0||0|
|E.Escobar 3b||1||1||1||0||Jaso c||0||1||0||0|
|Flowers c||4||0||0||0||Saunders cf||3||0||0||0|
|J.Phegley c||1||0||0||1||C.Wells cf||0||1||0||0|
|JGallaghr dh||3||0||0||0||Ryan ss||4||0||1||0|
|Chicago||001 340 302||— 13||16||1|
|Seattle||200 000 024||— 8||10||1|
|Stults W, 1-0||4||5||2||2||1||2|
|F.Hernandez L, 2-2||5||10||8||7||1||4|
|Hector Noesi (Yankees)||2-2||4.47|
|Kevin Millwood (Colo.)||4-3||3.98|