Mariners reassign top trio; Ramirez in mix
Hultzen, Walker, Paxton moved to Minor League camp
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners made their first big round of roster cuts on Sunday, and top young pitching prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton were among the 15 players optioned or reassigned to Minor League camp.
Interestingly, fellow rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was not among the cuts, and manager Eric Wedge said "he's in the mix" for a spot on the regular-season roster.
While Hultzen, Walker and Paxton have received much of the top-prospect hype, Ramirez has quietly gone about impressing the Mariners as a 21-year-old who rose to Triple-A Tacoma last year and then had an excellent Winter League in Venezuela.
"He's pitched very well," Wedge said. "He's a guy that we feel can be potentially a starter for us or pitch out of the bullpen and we're going to continue to look at him."
Ramirez threw three shutout innings in his first Cactus League start on Saturday against the D-backs and will get another start Thursday night against the Giants in Peoria. Wedge said the decision to give Ramirez a longer look wasn't based on his weekend showing.
"He wasn't going down. It wasn't dependent on last night," Wedge said. "He's a guy with more experience than those other guys and is a little further along."
Hultzen (No. 2), Walker (No. 3), Paxton (No. 5) and Ramirez (No. 13) are all ranked by MLB.com among the Mariners' top 20 prospects.
Also sent to the Minor League camp were: pitchers Yoervis Medina, Forrest Snow, Mauricio Robles and Scott Patterson; infielders Nick Franklin, Carlos Triunfel and Francisco Martinez; outfielders Johermyn Chavez, Chih-Hsien Chiang and Darren Ford; catcher Ralph Henriquez and designated hitter Luis Jimenez.
The moves leave the Mariners with 47 players remaining in Major League camp.
"It was an awesome experience as a whole," said Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in last June's Draft. "It was awesome to play with these guys and it's given me a lot of confidence I can go out and do the job. I just need to keep getting better. I realize there's a lot of work I still need to do."
Hultzen, Walker and Paxton were outstanding in their Cactus League debut on Saturday night against the D-backs, combining with Ramirez to throw eight innings of one-run ball with just four hits among them.
"It was hard to not sit there with a big smile on your face," Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis said.
But Wedge said they need more refining and that will come now in the Minor League camp.
"It's time for them to get down and get prepared for the regular season," he said. "We're getting to the point now with about 10 days of work left here before we go to Japan. We've got starters we've got to stretch out and other people we need to see with regard to making decisions.
"It's the right thing for them. That's why we're doing it, for them to go down there and continue to develop and gain experience and pitch regularly. They showed themselves very well here in camp and I'm excited to see how they progress."
Felix feeling ready to increase pitch counts
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez continued tuning up for his Opening Day start with a four-inning outing Sunday against the Giants, giving up a pair of runs on four hits in the Mariners' 7-5 loss in Cactus League play.
It wasn't an overpowering Felix, but it was another solid step in his preparation for the March 28 opener against the A's in Tokyo as he threw 53 pitches and pronounced himself strong and healthy.
Hernandez will have two more starts in Arizona before the team departs for Japan on March 22.
"I'm feeling good right now," he said. "I just need to throw more pitches. I think I could throw more than 100 now."
The Mariners didn't push Hernandez anywhere near that number Sunday, however. After throwing 35 pitches in three scoreless innings in his debut against the Reds on Tuesday, he bumped up to 53 while running into a little more trouble against the Giants.
Gregor Blanco and Emmanuel Burriss opened the third with singles and, one out later, Melky Cabrera followed with an RBI hit to right. Pablo Sandoval then hit a sacrifice fly to give the Giants a 2-1 lead.
"I got up a little," Hernandez said. "I threw a good changeup to Melky, but the second changeup was up and ... line drive. They came out that inning swinging at the first pitch."
Manager Eric Wedge said his ace is right on pace for where he needs to be at this point.
"He threw the ball well again today, used all his pitches, so he's right on target," Wedge said. "He'll be ready to go out there and pitch as long as we need him to, once we get to Japan. We've had him and [Jason] Vargas as well as a few other guys mapped out for quite a while. So he's right on line."
Trayvon putting all tools on display for Mariners
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mariners left fielder Trayvon Robinson is a youngster with a lot of physical skills, and he showed some of that Sunday with a 3-for-4 day that included a home run, double and bunt single in Seattle's 7-5 loss to the Giants.
Robinson is batting .500 (6-for-12) in Cactus League play as he looks to force his way into contention in the crowded Mariners outfield situation.
"It felt good," Robinson said. "I just wanted to get in there and try to beat them any way I can. I know what I can do on the baseball field, and I just tried to apply it today."
He hit the home run while batting left-handed in the ninth inning off Daniel Otero.
"There's a lot of raw ability there," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's trying to eliminate holes within his approach and become more of a complete player. That's what we need to keep working on."
The 24-year-old switch-hitter, acquired from the Dodgers in the Erik Bedard trade last July, said he's gained confidence throughout this spring.
"I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable," he said. "Slowing the game down has been the main focus for me this spring and for the rest of my career, really. You need to control the game and not let it control you."
Blake Beavan gets the start for the Mariners on Monday against Texas, with Hector Noesi scheduled to open against the Brewers on Tuesday in Maryvale.
Jason Vargas will throw in a Minor League game on Wednesday, which allows Kevin Millwood to start the Cactus League game that night against the Royals in Peoria. Young prospect Erasmo Ramirez gets his second start of the spring Thursday night, when Seattle hosts the Giants in Peoria.
Michael Saunders and Vinnie Catricala had two hits apiece Sunday to continue their strong springs. Saunders has had two hits in three of his last four games and is batting .389. Catricala, who played designated hitter on Sunday, is hitting .333.