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Originally published Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 12:51 PM

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Mariners trade for veteran starter Aaron Harang

The Mariners, trying to help the struggling back end of their rotation, traded for 34-year-old right-hander Aaron Harang on Thursday. The Mariners sent minor-league pitcher Steven Hensley to Colorado in the deal.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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With the back end of their rotation struggling, the Mariners added veteran starter Aaron Harang in a trade with the Colorado Rockies on Thursday. They sent minor-league pitcher Steven Hensley to the Rockies, who had acquired Harang in a trade with the Dodgers just last weekend.

The ballclub made another move later in the day, placing outfielder Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. Saunders hurt himself crashing into the wall while making a spectacular catch in Wednesday's loss to Houston.

To replace Saunders on the roster, the Mariners selected outfielder Endy Chavez from Class AAA Tacoma, where he was hitting .429 (12 for 28) in six games. Chavez was the Mariners' opening-day left fielder in 2009 and had been reacquired by the ballclub on March 24.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Harang, reliever Kameron Loe, who had given up six homers in 6-2/3 innings, was designated for assignment. And to make room for Chavez, minor-league pitcher D.J. Mitchell was designated for assignment.

Harang, who has yet to appear in a game this season, is expected to arrive on Friday. The Mariners plan to have him throw a bullpen session before determining his role, but he has been a starter throughout his career, compiling a 105-104 career record. Harang, 34, led the National League in strikeouts with 216 in 2006, and was 10-10 with a 3.61 earned-run average with the Dodgers last year.

Harang was built up as a starter all spring by the Dodgers, but once the season started, he wasn't in their rotation. He went to the bullpen but never appeared in any games, and then went into limbo when he was traded to the Rockies on Saturday and immediately designated for assignment.

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said Harang has been staying in shape, even throwing a simulated game Wednesday at San Diego State. The Mariners are leaving open the possibility that he could either join the rotation or work out of the bullpen. Their current fourth and fifth starters, Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer, are a combined 0-3 with a 10.90 ERA.

"When he gets here tomorrow and looks us all in the eye, we can get a gauge of where he's at, see how his bullpen session works out," Zduriencik said. "I think you have to get a feel for where he's at physically.

"The fact he's going to bump somebody is a little premature right now, but he is a starting pitcher. If he's in good shape and his pitch count is where it needs to be and his bullpen is successful, I think we'll address it after that."

Jon Heyman of CBS reported that the Mariners will pay Harang $1.5 million of his $7 million salary. Zduriencik said the financial considerations were worked out Thursday morning. Harang was on the Mariners' radar throughout spring training because of the Dodgers' surplus of starters. The deal was consummated on the heels of struggles by both Beavan and Maurer, but Zduriencik said the trade went beyond their issues.

"Our biggest need came about when Erasmo (Ramirez) wasn't able to step up for us. He's going to miss a little bit of time on the DL (triceps strain)," Zduriencik said. "We didn't think Jeremy (Bonderman) was ready to come up here yet. He still needs to pitch in Triple-A. So you have your ears open. With those two not available right now, we thought bringing someone in like Aaron, who has been a real quality pitcher at the major-league level and had a good year last year, it fit well."

An upbeat Saunders is hopeful of returning to action once his DL stint is over. Saunders was given a sling, but said he has no plans to use it, noting that he can put his shirt on and take it off by himself. Here's how he described the play in which he got hurt crashing into the wall to catch a drive by Jose Altuve:

"I was running full speed, kind of head down. It was a bang-bang play. I was glad I was able to hold on to it. When I hit the wall and fell over, everything sort of went numb, and I heard it (my shoulder) crunch. My initial reaction, I thought my collarbone. I definitely thought something was wrong.

"However, out of a bad situation, it was the best-case scenario, the best outcome that could have happened. ... We have to wait for the inflammation to go down. As soon as that happens, we can get to work on it. I'm going to bust my butt to work hard to get back in there. It's not a serious injury, so that's encouraging."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @StoneLarry

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