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Steady veteran LeBlanc steps into rotation

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- It's been nearly two years since Wade LeBlanc made his last Major League start, a 7-6 Mariners victory over the Brewers on Aug. 19, 2016. But the 33-year-old lefty says there's no difference in his approach as he moves from the bullpen back into the rotation to face A's standout Sean Manaea in Thursday's series finale at Safeco Field.

"The mindset is pretty much the same," LeBlanc said. "You take the ball and try to get as many outs as you can until they take it from you."

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SEATTLE -- It's been nearly two years since Wade LeBlanc made his last Major League start, a 7-6 Mariners victory over the Brewers on Aug. 19, 2016. But the 33-year-old lefty says there's no difference in his approach as he moves from the bullpen back into the rotation to face A's standout Sean Manaea in Thursday's series finale at Safeco Field.

"The mindset is pretty much the same," LeBlanc said. "You take the ball and try to get as many outs as you can until they take it from you."

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That's the approach that has kept LeBlanc pitching in various roles for 10 seasons in the Major Leagues as well as a year in Japan. And it's the reason the Mariners acquired the Louisiana native from the Yankees late in Spring Training, knowing they could use a versatile lefty capable of pitching long relief or sliding into a starting spot if needed.

That need arose with Erasmo Ramirez going on the disabled list Tuesday with a shoulder issue. Rather than bring back Ariel Miranda, who has a 6.39 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Tacoma, or promote young right-hander Rob Whalen (3-1, 4.45 ERA in five Tacoma starts), the Mariners will see how the savvy veteran fills the role for now.

"We'll give it some time and let it play out," manager Scott Servais said. "Going into this start, we're not looking for Wade to throw 100 pitches out there. But hopefully he'll give us four to five really competitive innings and we'll go from there. Wade is certainly capable of doing that and that's kind of what we're expecting out of him. But there's definitely potential for more than just one spot start."

Ramirez is expected to be shut down at least a month, so LeBlanc will have time to get back into the starting routine. He had a similar fill-in role in 2016 after a midseason acquisition from the Blue Jays, going 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 games, including eight starts.

Last year he pitched entirely in relief for the Pirates, posting a 4.50 ERA in 68 innings over 50 appearances. He has a career 22-31 record and 4.55 ERA in 79 starts and 4.02 ERA in 102 relief outings.

LeBlanc won't blow anybody away with his fastball, but he moves the ball around, throws strikes and works efficiently. In five relief outings this season, he's put up a 4.61 ERA with 12 strikeouts and three walks in 13 2/3 innings.

"One thing Wade always does is throw strikes," Servais said. "He's not going to beat himself. Your defense has to be on its toes, he's not going to strike out a ton of guys. But I think he'll be more than capable of filling in."

And LeBlanc understands what he brings to the table better than anyone. In his first start for Seattle in 2016, he threw six shutout innings, allowing three hits against the Cardinals, so he's certainly capable of providing quality outings when he's on target.

"A guy like me, with the stuff I have, I have to be able to attack from pitch No. 1 to my last pitch," he said. "There's not really any buildup to a start or saving stuff for later. It's not really any different than it is out of the bullpen. Just throw everything with conviction and try to get outs as fast as I can."

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

Seattle Mariners, Wade LeBlanc