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Felix to start Tuesday; Ramirez nearing return

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed Saturday that Felix Hernandez will make his next scheduled start on Tuesday against the Rangers in Texas. The veteran right-hander has struggled much of the season, but limited the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings in a 7-3 loss on Friday and will get the ball again in Arlington.

But if things don't go well, Seattle figures to have an alternative for his next turn in the rotation, if needed, next Sunday in Houston as Erasmo Ramirez will make what is expected to be his final Minor League rehab outing Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma.

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SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed Saturday that Felix Hernandez will make his next scheduled start on Tuesday against the Rangers in Texas. The veteran right-hander has struggled much of the season, but limited the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings in a 7-3 loss on Friday and will get the ball again in Arlington.

But if things don't go well, Seattle figures to have an alternative for his next turn in the rotation, if needed, next Sunday in Houston as Erasmo Ramirez will make what is expected to be his final Minor League rehab outing Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma.

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General manager Jerry Dipoto said Ramirez will definitely contribute this season either in long relief or as a starter. The club could use him as a spot sixth starter to give everyone in the rotation extra rest, have him take over a spot in the rotation if needed or use him in long relief with Roenis Elias currently on the disabled list with a strained triceps.

Ramirez, sidelined the past three months with a strained shoulder, has thrown very well in three rehab start; he's allowed one earned run on five hits over nine innings for Tacoma and Double-A Arkansas, with no walks and 12 strikeouts.

Video: SEA@TEX: Ramirez strikes out DeShields to end the 3rd

Ramirez will throw about five innings or 80 pitches for Tacoma in Sunday's 1:35 p.m. PT game vs. Colorado Springs at Cheney Stadium, then figures to receive word on his next step.

"After that I just wait for news," said the 28-year-old from Nicaragua. "If they want to use me like a starter, I'll be happy. If they want me as a long reliever, I'm going to be happy. I feel good, the arm is strong, my command is good, so whatever works.

"I just want to be active and be with the team and be part of the times we win. And if we have a bad game, be the one showing up the next day saying, 'Hey, let's go. Let's do it. It's a new day.'"

Ramirez pitched well for Seattle last year after being re-acquired from the Rays in a trade for Steve Cishek in late July. He posted a 3.35 ERA in his last nine starts, and Dipoto had him penciled into this year's rotation until he ran into arm troubles in spring that carried over to his first two regular-season starts.

Ramirez didn't have his normal velocity when he tried to return in April, but is back to full strength now and hitting 92-94 mph with his fastball.

"I feel like Erasmo Ramirez of last year when I got traded," he said. "Everything is going the right way. I'm throwing the ball wherever I want, no pain or soreness. I've had a little trouble with the curveball, but just because I haven't been throwing. But it's all right."

Ramirez is a realist. He knows he's been able to take advantage of Minor League hitters, which accounts for his 12 strikeouts and no walks.

"They've been swinging too much," he said with a smile. "They don't want to face the secondary pitch, so they try to jump on the fastball. And I'll take it. I don't have any problem with that at all. That's a good workout for me."

Day of rest for Dee
Servais initially had Dee Gordon penciled into Saturday's lineup, but the second baseman's right ankle -- which he rolled in the ninth inning of Thursday's 7-3 loss to Toronto -- was sore again after playing nine innings on it Friday.

"I thought he was running okay with it last night and got down the line pretty good on it in the first inning, right out of the chute," Servais said. "But we'll give him a day. It's just sore."

Gordon leads the American League and is second in the Majors with 26 stolen bases while batting .285, but needs his speed to be effective.

"That's a big part of it," Servais said. "And in the batter's box, too, having his legs underneath him. When he had the bad toe, that bothered him a little. We've got to get him going there."

Video: TOR@SEA: Gordon twists ankle, leaves game in 9th

No timetable for Nicasio
Veteran set-up man Juan Nicasio went on the 10-day DL on Friday with inflammation in his right knee, but Servais didn't have any timeline Saturday on if or when he might return this year.

After signing a two-year, $17 million free agent contract with Seattle last December, the 31-year-old has struggled with a 6.00 ERA in 46 games. While he's racked up 53 strikeouts with just six walks, opposing hitters have batted .308 against him and he's surrendered six home runs in 42 innings.

"I don't know," Servais said of a potential return. "Juan is frustrated. He hasn't felt good and wants to make it right. I certainly think he could come back and impact this year down the stretch, but I don't know."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez