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Miranda adds slider in hopes for rotation spot

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners pitcher Ariel Miranda is certain the little things he's been working on this spring will make a big difference in 2018.

The left-hander, who is competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, has reintroduced the slider to his repertoire and has been working on fine-tuning the grip. He'll get a chance to show off his stuff when he takes the mound Thursday against the A's.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners pitcher Ariel Miranda is certain the little things he's been working on this spring will make a big difference in 2018.

The left-hander, who is competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, has reintroduced the slider to his repertoire and has been working on fine-tuning the grip. He'll get a chance to show off his stuff when he takes the mound Thursday against the A's.

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"I started working on the slider last year and it worked well," Miranda said in Spanish. "I mean, I always had it, but I didn't throw it very much because in Cuba, you don't throw it or need it. It was just fastball and changeup. You can't do that here in the Major Leagues."

According to Statcast™, Miranda threw 1,969 fastballs and gave up 102 hits on those pitches last season. He also threw 692 breaking balls and gave up 38 hits. So far, he has cycled through his pitches with mixed results. Miranda has allowed four earned runs on 10 hits in eight innings in Cactus League play. He's walked five and struck out eight in three appearances.

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"He's changed his grip on his breaking ball in his last outing or two, and I think he has thrown some better ones the last time out," Mariners manager Scott Servais. "In the past, it has pretty much been fastball, change or the split-finger pitch, so having him come up with a real breaking ball will be huge. I say all that, and I don't want him to get consumed and lose sight of the things that he does."

Miranda, who finished last season with an 8-7 record, a 5.12 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and 137 strikeouts in 160 innings, led the Mariners in innings pitched and was second in both strikeouts and victories.

He has an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation because Erasmo Ramirez has been sidelined with a strained lat muscle and it's uncertain if he will be ready for Opening Day. That said, the Mariners might not need a fifth starter until mid-April because of their schedule.

"One thing Ariel does is that he competes very well," Servais said. "Seeing how we play out, when we need a fifth starter, or if we even need one, or if our other guys are going to be healthy -- he's certainly competing for that spot on our team."

Video: SEA@CLE: Miranda fields deflection, gets the out

Miranda has made adjustments in the past so a new grip should not be a problem. He was signed by the Orioles out of Cuba in 2015 and traded to Seattle on July 31, 2016, for Wade Miley.

"Things have been going well," Miranda said in Spanish. "I'm getting another opportunity to make the team and I want to take advantage of it. I'm trying to win a job."

The left-hander joked his biggest adjustment this spring has nothing to do with baseball.

"It's hot, and then really cold one day," he said. "I'm fine with the warm weather, but I'm not liking this cold stuff."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Seattle Mariners, Ariel Miranda