Outlook: Ramirez may play key role in 2013

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Erasmo Ramirez knows the competition for spots in the Mariners' rotation is heated this spring, but the 22-year-old from Nicaragua is doing his best to make that decision more difficult for manager Eric Wedge and his staff.

Ramirez worked his way in and out of trouble for six innings on Saturday, picking up the victory in a 5-2 decision over the Rockies. Though he allowed five doubles among eight hits, the youngster bore down when needed and limited Colorado to just two runs while going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

The runs were the first allowed by Ramirez this spring, and his ERA sits at 1.50 after 12 innings of work.

"When I get in trouble, I relaxed and executed. Why didn't you do that when nobody was on base?" Ramirez asked with a grin. "I'm working on that."

Ramirez is one of several youngsters -- along with Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer -- competing with veterans Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman for the final twol spots in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders.

Though Ramirez opened last season in the bullpen before starting eight games in the second half, Wedge said he's definitely being viewed as a starting candidate. Controlling the damage, as he did Saturday, is part of the package the Mariners want to see.

"He's been pretty good with that," Wedge said. "I'd like to see him come out a little bit better, but again, he's in here competing, throwing the ball well and using all his pitches and doing a pretty good job both against left- and right-handed hitters."

A year ago, Ramirez survived the final cut over highly-rated prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Those three have been sent down again this year, but Ramirez said the competition never eases.

"I'm working hard to make their decision tough, because we have a lot of talent in the Minors," Ramirez said. "Oh my gosh, we've got young guys throwing like 98 easy. So I have to make sure to do my work and show the manager and staff that I want to fight.

"You don't want to seem like you've already got the spot. You think always, even if you have a contract or whatever you've got, you have a lot of competition always. It never ends. All the season, in the season, on vacation, even in Winter Ball, you've got competition. You've got to be ready for everyone."

Mariners have options with Luetge

Lucas Luetge on what he's working on this spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago, Lucas Luetge came to Mariners camp knowing he had to be lights out just to make the club as a Rule 5 Draft pick who'd never pitched above Double-A ball in the Brewers system.

But the flip side was that if the Mariners chose to keep Luetge, he was definitely going to stay on the Major League club since Rule 5 Draft regulations require a player to be offered back to his former team if he's dropped from the 25-man roster at any point during his first season.

This spring is a different deal, with the Mariners now able to send Luetge down to the Minors if they choose without risking losing him. So while the 25-year-old Texan proved himself a capable situational lefty last season when he posted a 3.98 ERA in 63 appearances, there are no guarantees as the club goes about structuring its bullpen this spring.

Manager Eric Wedge liked having three lefties to work with in the second half last season when Luetge, Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez all were part of the 'pen, but isn't locked into anything for 2013. After giving up runs in back-to-back appearances, Luetge helped his case with two scoreless innings with no hits, one walk and four strikeouts Friday against the Netherlands.

"We felt it was important for Luetge to come out and throw a couple innings," Wedge said. "We were hoping he'd be efficient in that first inning to where he could come back out, particularly against the right-handers. We're still looking for him to continue to improve, and he was much more aggressive. He had better life on his ball, both against right- and left-handers. But the finish on his pitches to the right-handers was definitely much improved."

How does Wedge view the southpaw component of his bullpen?

"We feel good about the left-handed options we have," he said. "Even the young kids, [Brian] Moran and [Bobby] LaFromboise, those are a couple guys that were very impressive in camp here. And of course the three we had last year that are still here. But we haven't made any final decisions with that yet. We still have some people in camp that are competing for jobs, so nothing is a given."

Felix to throw in Minor League game on Sunday

Felix shares his thoughts following simulated game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez will make his third start of the spring on Sunday, but he'll skip the Mariners' Cactus League game against the Rangers and instead throw in a Minor League contest.

Hernandez is scheduled for four innings of work for the Mariners' Class A team as it faces the Reds on one of the practice fields at the Peoria Sports Complex at 1 p.m. PT, the same time that his teammates will be squaring off against Texas at nearby Peoria Stadium.

The Mariners are looking to avoid having Hernandez face the division-rival Rangers more than necessary, given he'll see them several times during the regular season. Wedge said the decision was also based on wanting to see other pitchers against top competition as roster decisions loom.

"We've got other people we need to see, too," Wedge said. "It's a combination of the two. And we'll do that with a couple of our other starters as well. We've got a lot of people competing for spots in our rotation and we're getting deeper into March. The guys competing for spots in our rotation, we need to see them in 'A' games."

Blake Beavan will start the Cactus League game against the Rangers.

Hernandez, who signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension this spring, has pitched five innings in two outings with two runs and three hits. He went three innings in his last outing on March 12 against the D-backs, allowing one hit -- a solo home run.

Hernandez was 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in two regular-season starts against the Rangers last year, allowing one run and nine hits in 17 innings. For his career, he's 12-16 with a 3.76 ERA in 34 starts against Texas.

Hernandez will have two more Cactus League outings -- most likely against the Padres on Friday and the Dodgers on March 27 -- before facing the A's on Opening Day in Oakland.

Worth noting

• Sunday's Cactus League game against the Rangers will be televised by ROOT Sports in the Seattle area starting at 1:05 p.m. PT. That kicks off a run of TV games, with Tuesday night's game against the Giants at 7:05 p.m., Thursday against the Cubs at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday against the Indians at 1:05 p.m. all being broadcast live by ROOT. The games on Sunday and Tuesday are also available on MLB.TV.

• After Blake Beavan starts on Sunday against the Rangers, Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to open against the A's on Monday in Phoenix, and Brandon Maurer will be on the hill first for Tuesday night's game against the Giants.

• Single-game tickets for all Mariners home games in 2013 went on sale Saturday. They are available at Mariners.com..