SEATTLE -- With Ariel Miranda needing to be promoted to the 25-man roster on Tuesday so he can start that night's game against the Astros, the Mariners are going to need to start doing some juggling soon.But for now, manager Scott Servais said left fielder Ben Gamel will remain with
SEATTLE -- With Ariel Miranda needing to be promoted to the 25-man roster on Tuesday so he can start that night's game against the Astros, the Mariners are going to need to start doing some juggling soon.
But for now, manager Scott Servais said left fielder Ben Gamel will remain with Triple-A Tacoma for at least another game or two, and catcher Mike Zunino is beginning his own Minor League rehab assignment on Monday night with Class A Advanced Modesto.
Someone will need to be sent down to Tacoma on Tuesday to open a spot for Miranda, who'll face Astros lefty Lance McCullers in the first game Seattle has needed a fifth starter this season. The Mariners currently are carrying eight relievers, so they could go to a seven-man 'pen if needed.
The other option would seem to be sending down Taylor Motter, given he's a bit of a luxury as a second utility man in addition to Andrew Romine. But Motter has been working in a platoon at first base with Daniel Vogelbach while Ryon Healy is recovering from a sprained ankle.
Things will get even more interesting when Gamel returns, since that raises the question of where Ichiro Suzuki fits. Ichiro was signed after Gamel strained his oblique in early March, but the 44-year-old has hit .207 with no extra-base hits in 29 at-bats and struggled at times in left field.
With Erasmo Ramirez slated to throw his third rehab start Tuesday night in Tacoma, it's possible the Mariners buy a little time by optioning Miranda back to Tacoma after the game and temporarily go again with four starters, then recall Ramirez to fill that fifth spot when it comes around again Sunday in Texas.
Servais acknowledged that Gamel is healthy enough to return, but is in a holding pattern now due to the roster situation. The Rainiers' game in Sacramento was rained out Monday, so Gamel will start Tuesday in Tacoma against Albuquerque.
Gamel already has played five games with Modesto and four with Tacoma, batting a combined .281 with two doubles and four RBIs.
"He'll play at least one more, maybe a couple more before we bring him back," Servais said. "I think he's in a pretty good spot, ready to come back. We're just trying to do the right things roster-wise, as much as anything. That also plays into it."
As for the potential of a seven-man bullpen, Servais declined to speculate.
"There are a lot of scenarios," he said. "I'm not sure which way we're going. It's really day to day now, to see how our bullpen holds up. If we happen to have a night that goes extra innings or whatever and you get a little thin in your bullpen, that can dictate which way you go. So we'll really just play it day by day."
Zunino's return is less problematic, as the Mariners will just send down one of their rookie catchers at that point, either Mike Marjama or David Freitas, which could happen as early as the start of the upcoming road trip Friday in Texas.
Healy is eligible to return from his sprained ankle on Wednesday. He's taking batting practice and moving better, so it's possible he could be brought back soon as well, which would almost certainly signal Motter's return to Tacoma if he's still on the roster.
Erasmo close to returning
Ramirez threw four innings in his last start for Tacoma, and the right-hander said he feels fully recovered from the right lat strain that sidelined him at the start of Spring Training in mid-February.
"It's been long and slow, but I'm just excited to be pitching again," Ramirez said. "I feel great. Now I just need to build up the innings."
Servais is hopeful Ramirez can get into the sixth inning on Tuesday, which would set him up to rejoin the Mariners on his next start.
Meanwhile, veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will throw another bullpen session Tuesday and then advance to facing live hitters, likely with Tacoma while the Mariners are on their upcoming road trip. Iwakuma re-signed with Seattle on a Minor League deal after making just six starts last year and then having shoulder surgery in September.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.