SEATTLE -- Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was optioned to Class-A High Desert and infielder Nick Franklin was sent to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday as the Mariners looked for opportunities to get both youngsters more playing time in the coming days.
With two off days in the next five days, Ramirez will be skipped in the rotation and given a chance to stay on schedule to rejoin the Mariners if needed when the club opens a nine-day, 10-game road trip at the conclusion of this weekend's home series with the Rangers.
General manager Jack Zduriencik said Ramirez will start for High Desert in Stockton, Calif., on Sunday, which is the same day Hisashi Iwakuma is making a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma. Ramirez will then join the Rainiers in Sacramento and accompany them back to Tacoma for his next start May 2 against Las Vegas.
"We didn't want to send him to Double-A Jackson in Mobile, Alabama, for one start," Zduriencik said. "This works out timing-wise and keeps him on the West Coast instead of flying all over the country."
Seattle faces the A's in a doubleheader in Oakland on May 7, and Ramirez would remain on schedule to pitch that day if needed.
Zduriencik said the club is looking for Ramirez to get some work and regain the form he showed earlier this spring.
"We just want him to be consistent, that's all," Zduriencik said. "We've always liked Erasmo and think he's a pretty good pitcher. He's had some struggles here, but pitchers and players go through that. He just needs to get back on track. He pitched pretty good after the second inning the other day and that was encouraging. That was a good step."
Ramirez, 23, won his season debut with a seven-inning, two-run effort in Anaheim, but has gone 0-3 with an 8.47 ERA over his last four starts to put him at 1-3, 6.75 for the season.
The Mariners' rotation could have some more options in the near future with Iwakuma close to rejoining the club after missing all spring with a sprained tendon in his right middle finger.
James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have also been cleared to begin throwing in the next few days as they attempt to return from injuries. For now, the club is tentatively lined up to start Roenis Elias, Felix Hernandez and Brandon Maurer this weekend against the Rangers, then come back with Chris Young, Elias and Hernandez in New York following Monday's off day.
Franklin is headed to Las Vegas to rejoin the Rainiers after hitting .125 (2-for-16) in seven games for Seattle following his April 16 callup. He started four games at four different positions (second base, third base, right field and designated hitter).
Zduriencik said that move was simply to get the 22-year-old regular playing time.
"We wanted to make sure Nick is getting at-bats every day," he said. "He's a young player who is very talented. We can move him around down there, but primarily he's a middle infielder and will play some other positions, too.
"More than anything else, we just want him playing seven days a week. He's very inexperienced as an outfielder, so we couldn't commit to that every day."
Franklin hit .395 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games for Tacoma to start the season before being brought up to Seattle when outfielder Logan Morrison went on the 15-day disabled list.
Cole Gillespie, 29, coming up from Triple-A Tacoma, gives the Mariners a more experienced backup outfield option. Franklin made his first start in right field in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Astros, but he's been an infielder his entire professional career since being drafted in the first round in 2009.
Gillespie was hitting .362 with five doubles, one triple, five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games for Tacoma. The former Oregon State standout will join the team Friday and be available for the opening game of the Rangers series at 7:10 p.m. PT at Safeco Field.
Gillespie has batted .225 in 78 Major League games with the D-backs (2010-11), Giants (2013) and Cubs ('13). He was originally selected by the Brewers in the third round of the 2006 Draft after leading Oregon State to a College World Series title.
"He's been doing a nice job down there and is a very steady player," Zduriencik said. "We'll give him a shot."
The Mariners' 25-man Major League roster is currently at 24, so one more player will be added prior to Friday's game. That addition likely will be a reliever to help out an overtaxed bullpen. One possibility is left-hander Lucas Luetge, who wouldn't be eligible to be recalled until Friday, which would mark the required 10th day after he was optioned to Tacoma. He opened the season with the Mariners.
Gillespie had to be added to the 40-man roster, which had an opening after Tacoma first baseman Ji-Man Choi was suspended for 50 games last week.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.