OAKLAND -- Erasmo Ramirez is a youngster with an ever-present smile, even on a normal day. But the 21-year-old rookie was literally beaming on Thursday as he dressed in the Mariners' clubhouse for the team's off-day workout after making the 25-man roster on Wednesday.
Asked if he could be serious, Ramirez turned on a mock scowl for a moment, then broke back into a grin.
"One second," he said of his effort.
The Nicaraguan native has reason to smile. He is the youngest player to crack the Mariners' roster and one of the biggest surprises from the start of camp, after arriving in the shadow of top prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker -- who are all starting the season at Double-A Jackson.
"I've lived four years in the Minor Leagues, and I know how hard it is to move up," said Ramirez, who split last year between Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma. "And when you get up here, everybody behind you in the Minors wants your spot. So now I need to keep working to try to keep it as long as I can."
Ramirez stands just 5-foot-10, but he's got a deceptive fastball and excellent command. He'll fill a middle-inning relief role to start, manager Eric Wedge said, with the potential for some later-inning appearances as things develop.
Ramirez started out as a reliever in the Venezuela Summer League in 2008, but has been primarily a starter throughout his climb through the system. When it comes down to it, he's just happy with whatever chance he gets.
"Yeah, I want to pitch," he said. "Give me a ball, give me a chance. It wasn't like I wanted to be a starter or reliever all my life. Just give me a chance to throw the ball to home plate."
Gutierrez, Carp making progress
OAKLAND -- Injured outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp remained behind in Arizona as the Mariners hit the road Thursday. But both players are progressing well and could be ready to return relatively soon, according to manager Eric Wedge.
Gutierrez, who suffered a partial tear of his right pectoral muscle five weeks ago, has been taking batting practice and doing some light throwing in recent days.
Carp sprained his right shoulder diving for a ball in Seattle's Opening Day victory in Tokyo on March 28. He'll start swinging a bat for the first time on Friday. Wedge said both Carp and Gutierrez stood in the box and took pitches from Kevin Millwood during a simulated game on Thursday to start getting their timing back.
Wedge indicated on Wednesday that Gutierrez was a little ahead of Carp, but noted on Thursday that, "Carp is actually moving along faster than we thought," after talking with trainer Rick Griffin.
"They've both been really good with their comebacks so far," Wedge said. "Guti isn't throwing full out yet, but he is throwing. I just want him to keep going. For Carp, it's a big day tomorrow, taking some swings. And Guti's been doing good with that."
Gutierrez is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Monday, which is the start of the Texas series. He won't be ready to return that soon, and likely will need a Minor League rehab stint to get into playing shape after missing almost all of Spring Training.
Carp is eligible to come off the DL on April 13, which would be just in time for the Mariners' home opener. That's a goal he was shooting for as the team departed on its first road swing without him.
"I've watched the last couple years, everybody running out that Opening Day at Safeco, and I've wanted to be a part of that," said Carp, who made the season-opening roster for the first time this year when the club played in Tokyo. "Hopefully, I'm still shooting for that. But it's pretty frustrating. You work so hard and have a plan, and now you're kind of set back.
"It's just part of the game though. It happens. It's just my turn to have it happen, I guess. I've been fortunate to have good health through my career. Luckily, this happened early enough that I can still get almost a full year. I'm only going to miss a few games, as of right now, so that's the plan. I want to hopefully still get in 150-plus games."
Reliever Luetge is Mariners' biggest surprise
OAKLAND -- The Mariners wound up with seven official rookies on their 25-man roster, but the biggest surprise has to be Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge.
The 25-year-old had never pitched above Double-A ball in the Brewers' system and seemed lost behind a long line of left-handed relievers when camp opened. But he hung around and kept performing, and wound up making the club after a strong spring.
"It's the greatest feeling you can have," Luetge said on Thursday as he prepared for the team's off-day workout before Friday's game with the A's. "You've been dreaming about this your whole life, and you finally get that chance."
His first phone call after the roster was finalized on Wednesday was to his wife. Then, he called his mom and dad, who will be driving from Industry, Texas, to take in Seattle's series with the Rangers next week.
"My wife has been going through all this with me, and my parents have been with me since Little League," he said. "My dad coached me when I was little, and then videotaped every game and would talk to me after every high school game.
"He was speechless when I told him. This was all of our dreams. This is what you work for, and when it finally happens, it takes you back a step."
Luetge was soaking everything up Thursday in his first time in a Major League clubhouse.
"Just driving up to the stadium was awesome," said Luetge. "I'm just trying to take it all in, little by little. I'll try to enjoy every bit of it and not take any of it for granted."
Of Seattle's rookies, four will be making their Major League debuts -- Luetge, Erasmo Ramirez and Japanese signees Munenori Kawasaki and Hisashi Iwakuma. The other three -- Alex Liddi, Steve Delabar and Jesus Montero -- played in the Majors last year as September callups, but not enough to eliminate their rookie status.
Montero worked out Thursday for the first time since getting hit in the helmet with a pitch in Monday's game against the Rockies. Wedge said Montero was finally feeling batter again, but he wanted to see how he handled things before determining the lineup for Friday's game against the A's.
Wedge said Iwakuma would be the long relief man to start the season. Ramirez is another former starter who conceivably could be used in that role, but Wedge said he'd be more of a middle-inning man to begin with and had the potential to be used in later innings, as well.
Wedge said many of the relief roles will evolve as the season progresses. Only closer Brandon League and setup man Tom Wilhelmsen have established positions at this point.
"Beyond that, we're going to have to wait and define it," Wedge said. "This year, I think we're further along with our bullpen coming out of Spring Training. But how it evolves, that's the question."
Millwood didn't travel with the team to Oakland, instead staying in Peoria, Ariz., to throw a Minor League intrasquad game on Thursday to stay in line for his first start on Wednesday in Texas. He threw 63 pitches over four-plus innings, while giving up three hits, one run, no walks and recording nine strikeouts.
Blake Beavan, who will start Tuesday in Texas, threw a bullpen session Thursday in Oakland and will have another side session over the weekend.
Catcher Adam Moore, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a broken bone in his right wrist, began a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Tacoma. He started at catcher for the Rainiers in their Thursday opener and is expected to play DH on Friday.
Like most players who find out the good news of making the team, Liddi immediately called his parents upon getting the word from Wedge on Wednesday. The difference for Liddi, his parents live in Italy.
"They were freaking out," Liddi said. "It was like 3 in the morning over there. But it was an important phone call."
The City of Seattle announced it would do a traffic and parking impact study on the Sodo area regarding the proposed NBA arena south of Safeco Field, which was welcome news for the Mariners after they expressed concern over the potential congestion on already crowded streets in the area.
"We are very supportive of this process and we look forward to being involved," the club said in a statement. "We have a lot of experience down here because we have lived it every day for over 12 years. We look forward to participating in the study, offering our experience and our expertise and helping find a solution that works for everyone.