SEATTLE -- After a pedestrian Spring Training, Mariners left-hander Ariel Miranda appeared to be the odd man out of the starting rotation, and was set to begin the season with Triple-A Tacoma.It didn't help Miranda's cause when general manager Jerry Dipoto shipped in veteran starters in Drew Smyly and Yovani
SEATTLE -- After a pedestrian Spring Training, Mariners left-hander Ariel Miranda appeared to be the odd man out of the starting rotation, and was set to begin the season with Triple-A Tacoma.
It didn't help Miranda's cause when general manager Jerry Dipoto shipped in veteran starters in Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo in the offseason to fill out a projected starting rotation that already contained Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.
Once an afterthought, Miranda completed his team-high 12th start and his first career complete game in the Mariners' 7-1 win over the Rays on Sunday.
Where would the Mariners be without him?
"We wouldn't be in a good spot without Ariel Miranda," manager Scott Servais said. "All the injuries we've had, the guys have stepped up. And I think we try and keep things in perspective. Not asking him to go out and give us complete game shutouts, but to keep us in the ballgame."
If Servais and the coaching staff are setting low and reasonable expectations for the Mariners' makeshift rotation, then Miranda isn't just exceeding those benchmarks -- he's shattering them.
The second-year pitcher is 5-0 in his last eight starts with a 3.47 ERA and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of those outings. He leads the Mariners with six wins since being called up to replace Smyly in the rotation after he went on the disabled list.
Servais notes Miranda's fearless attitude on the mound is his biggest strength and the main reason he's capitalized on his opportunity.
"He's a really good competitor," Servais said. "You look at him and his whole story, what it takes to get out of Cuba, get over here. He's with Baltimore, we trade for him. Even in Spring Training, didn't have the [great] Spring Training and originally wasn't going to make our team until we had the injuries hit.
"When he stepped up, it's just like he had too much at stake. He's not letting you go. I think it's a tribute to him and his makeup and personality."
That competitive personality was on full display in the Mariners' dugout in about the seventh inning, Servais recounts, as Nelson Cruz came up to him and said Miranda wanted to finish out the game.
"I'm all in on that," Servais aid. "I think it's great."
No one would have guessed Miranda would be the catalyst of the Mariners starting rotation, one without Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton and Smyly for the majority of the season, especially after he was seemingly on the outside looking in during March.
"He's been sort of the cornerstone for us, the backbone in the sense of the whole year turning in quality starts," Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said. "He's anchored this rotation when guys are injured or just coming back. Without him, we'd be scrambling a lot more."
**Josh Horton</> is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.