While the Mariners have a bunch of position players who are expected to be added to the mix come September 1st, there aren't as many arms. That's partially because the Mariners have carried around an eight-man bullpen for a while now, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few arms remaining in Tacoma that can help them out down the stretch.
Lloyd McClendon has been careful to lighten the workload of the front of the rotation over the past month or two, giving Felix Hernandez and others an extra day of rest when possible. That's no more evident than today, where Erasmo Ramirez will make a spot start, pushing Felix back to Friday against the Washington Nationals.
A similar role is in line for Taijuan Walker, who will likely make a few spot starts of his own down the stretch, or perhaps work in long relief for games that are out of hand. McClendon has been critical of Walker over the season, and he's been hanging out in Tacoma after James Paxton returned.
Walker has been up and down over the past month, as after he had a disaster start of 8 runs in just 2.1 innings, he followed it up with two dominant starts consisting of 15 innings, 22 strikeouts, five hits, and two earned runs. But the long ball has plagued him in his last two appearances, allowing a 6.00 ERA and three home runs.
With Elias approaching innings he's never hit before and Chris Young on pace for the most innings of his career (185.1), the Mariners might need Walker the same way they need Erasmo Ramirez, as a part of the rotation down the home stretch.
Ramirez is already up to start today's game. If the Mariners desire, he can be sent down immediately and be eligible to return as soon as Tacoma's season ends, on September 1st, not subject to the normal 10-day waiting period. As above, he'll operate in a similar role to Walker, though depending on today's outcome, he may get first crack at spot starts. Remarkably, Ramirez and his wavering command has posted a 4.06 ERA to go along with his whopping 4.5 BB/9 at the major league level. But Ramirez has only walked three batters over his last six starts across both Tacoma and Seattle, so who knows what's going on. Is it weird, wild but semi-good Erasmo? Or is it the accurate, good in theory, bad in practice Erasmo? Pulled in the middle of a batter in his last outing in Seattle, he'll continue to have a short leash with how deep this bullpen is.
While Luetge has barely had a role on the M's at all this year, he's been decent in Tacoma. He's clearly third on that pecking order behind Joe Beimel and Charlie Furbush as a situational lefty, but he'll still likely get a call to play his perpetually miscast role he's operated in for far too long -- mop-up duty in long lost games. Luetge isn't that kind of a pitcher and he gets shelled by righties, yet has had to spend a great deal of his major league career pitching to them in doomed games, inflating his ERA to levels it probably shouldn't be at. Luetge is hardly a special talent for a reliever, but he's been put in situations where he's destined to fail. There's a good chance that will probably happen again, as it's hard to see Luetge pitching over this current bullpen in any high leverage situations. Sorry about your ERA, Lucas.