There’s an interesting couple of decisions looming. Taijuan Walker – if he’s able to knock management’s socks off in his next rehab start – could be back in the starting rotation as early as next week. Hisashi Iwakuma – who’s throwing the baseball like a real boy again – could be back in the starting rotation as early as the month of May. We are days, if not weeks, away from improving our starting rotation tenfold! And that rotation, thus far, has been pretty good to boot.
This means that two of the starters currently on the team will have to be removed. Now, obviously, Felix Hernandez doesn’t have to worry about his spot, because he’s the best. But, those other four guys? Well, they can consider these first few weeks of the regular season as “Extended Spring Training.”
Normally, teams have these issues figured out by now. Decisions are made based upon a series of meaningless practice games, and while people may question this practice, there’s nothing they can do to change it, because that’s the way it’s always been done. HOWEVER, in this instance, we’re getting into a situation where jobs are won and lost based on real baseball games that matter! How often do you get to say that?
If I was going to rank them in order of Most Safe to Least Safe, I’d rank our starters like this (again, keeping in mind that I’m leaving Felix out of the discussion because there’s no way in a snowball’s chance in Hell that he’s going anywhere):
- James Paxton
- Roenis Elias
- Erasmo Ramirez
- Chris Young
I’m of the opinion that regardless of what happens, Chris Young is going into our bullpen as a long reliever. It’s where he belongs, so make it happen M’s.
Now, most of you would think that Elias’ job is less safe than Ramirez, but I’m here to tell you, “Not So Fast!” Before the season started, when they had all yet to throw an inning in a regular season game, I would have said, “Sure, Elias will be sent down to Tacoma when Iwakuma returns to Seattle.” But, now Elias has an advantage: he’s only pitched in one game thus far. Erasmo Ramirez just pitched his second game on Sunday and looked pretty miserable in so doing. He was also in the doghouse a little bit in Spring Training for throwing too many pitches into the meaty part of the strike zone when he was ahead in counts. I’ll say this: if Elias pitches a great game on Wednesday, then follows it up with another great outing in Texas next week, we could very well be looking at Erasmo Ramirez going down to Tacoma.
Of course, it’s still VERY early. But, these guys might have 1-2 starts max before a decision needs to be made. They’re going to have to prove that they’re worthy, or the team won’t hesitate to put them down and let them work out their issues.
Gambling man that I am, if I had to put money on it, I’d still say that Elias gets sent to Tacoma and Young gets put in the bullpen (probably with Dominic Leone going back to AAA in favor of Tom Wilhelmsen, because of course), but right now, if Vegas were putting odds down, I’d say Ramirez’s performance on Sunday has him teetering on the edge of the plank, with a dozen circling sharks swimming in the water below.