And then there were 3. According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Erasmo Ramirez will be optioned to AAA, leaving just three pitchers battling for the final rotation spot. Ramirez had been pitching mostly in relief in recent games, leading some to believe this was coming, or that he could end up in the bullpen. Instead, he'll join the rotation in AAA.
Erasmo Ramirez is a more talented pitcher than Blake Beavan, but the Mariners have sadly opted for durability and experience instead of talent to fill out their rotation. Ramirez has had some minor injuries through camp that certainly contributed to this decision, but I suspect he won't be down for long, and may very well force himself back up.
This leaves Blake Beavan, Brandon Maurer, and Jeremy Bonderman to battle for the final two rotation spots. At this point, it seems like a true long shot that Bonderman has a chance, and Maurer may indeed have won himself a rotation spot. Looking forward to this date from last season, this would be a stunning development to many outsiders, but this organization has consistently spoke highly of Maurer, and he has forced their hand with a spectacular spring.
Maurer comes with plenty of concerns, as he would be completely skipping AAA and has also struggled with some injuries over his minor league career. The Mariners don't seem to be concerned with starting his clock early, as this promotion is reminiscent of Michael Pineda's ascension in 2011. Strangely enough, the pitching prospect era of Mariners baseball begins with the least heralded of the "Big Three," which eventually became four, and the rest of the group are left looking up at Maurer's remarkable climb in this organization.
Nobody is talking about Jeremy Bonderman, which is nerve-wracking. It doesn't seem like anybody is taking his chances at the rotation particularly seriously, but he is still there, and he is still a contender for that fact alone. I have a hard time believing he is going to unseat Beavan or Maruer at this point and will be stashed in AAA if at all possible, and Ramirez and Bonderman can shuttle back and forth for spot starts if needed. Bonderman may look for another opportunity but given the investment and interest the Mariners have shown him, it seems likely he would accept his assignment.
This also irons out the final details of the bullpen, as Ramirez was the last question mark. Lucas Luetge is safe barring anything unexpected happening, and the team will carry 3 left-handed relievers in the bullpen.
The opening day Seattle Mariners seem to be nearly complete. Jason Bay or Casper Wells remains the final question mark.