Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge pretty much has the pitching rotation set going into March. The first three spots are already locked up, with Felix Hernandez, Joe Saunders and Hishasi Iwakuma occupying the front end. It is likely that Blake Beavan will take up the fourth spot after the way he finished the 2012 season. The only spot that is vacant is the fifth spot; Wedge will have a very tough decision to make before spring training concludes.
Wedge has the option to use a veteran to occupy the fifth spot, like he did last year with Kevin Millwood who pitched very well, going 6-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 28 starts. The Mariners signed both Jeremy Bonderman and Jon Garland to minor league deals this offseason just as they did with Millwood last year.
Both pitchers are on the wrong side of thirty and have a history of injuries, but their veteran experience could be valuable to the club. Using a veteran on the back end of their career might not be the most popular choice, but if one these guys have a consistent season like Millwood did last year, the move will pay off.
Another option would be to use one of the top prospects in the fifth spot. It would be very unlikely to see GM Jack Zduriencik rush RHP Taijuan Walker to the MLB, but LHP’s Danny Hultzen and James Paxton have a chance to crack the rotation. Both prospects pitched three years in college, one year in the minor leagues and have the experience necessary to pitch in the MLB.
RHP Erasmo Ramirez was the #5 starter at the end of the 2012 season, starting eight games with a 3.64 ERA. Ramirez is only 22, but he does not have that top-prospect status like Hultzen or Walker, so the front office has no problem with him throwing innings, as he has thrown 150+ innings in each of the last three seasons. Ramirez made a good impression during his time in the rotation last season.
I think it would be unlikely to see either Bonderman or Garland crack the rotation, but crazier things have happened. By mid-season either Hultzen or Paxton will have a spot in the rotation, but for now Erasmo Ramirez will likely keep his spot.