Mariners' Maurer Knocks On The Door





SEATTLE—Mariners watchers have spent the last year or so talking about the big three—lefthanders Danny Hultzen and James Paxton and righthander Taijuan Walker—all of whom began the 2012 season with Double-A Jackson.

The Mariners themselves never quite bought into that. To their minds, there were other good young starting pitchers in the organization, and narrowing the field to just three was unnecessarily limiting.

There was Erasmo Ramirez, who by the end of the season was in the Seattle rotation. And then there is Brandon Maurer. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound 22-year-old has been in the Seattle organization for five years after having been drafted out of high school in California's Orange County. At the time, he could throw hard, but there is more to finding success than throwing hard.

The first additional pitch to come along for Maurer was his slider. And this year, his additions of a changeup and curveball, both that could be consistently thrown for strikes, turned him into a force.

He went 9-2, 3.20 with 177 strikeouts and 48 walks for Jackson and wound up being named the Southern League pitcher of the year. He got shut down in the postseason after he reached an innings limit (138) imposed by the Mariners.

"It was a jump of something like 30 or 40 innings for him," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "We wanted to make sure that we protected him. We didn't want him overextended.

"He's knocking on the door of being a big league pitcher."

The innings jump for Maurer actually was greater than that, from 79 innings in 2011, an increase of just under 60 innings. He was limited by two stints on the disabled list with a strained right elbow.

The 2012 season also proved that the elbow problems that limited Maurer to 79 innings in 2011 are behind him. He had trouble throwing his fastball for strikes in his first few outings, but once he got locked in, everything clicked.

Scouts say Maurer, who can throw at 96 mph but generally sits at about 94, showed skill this year at hitting the corners, elevating the fastball with two strikes, and throwing a slider that can disappear on a hitter.

Marinade

• Outfielder Carlos Peguero, who spent most of the season at Triple-A, says he wants to play winter ball. He played daily with Triple-A Tacoma, but during his stops with Seattle didn't see much playing time.

• Jackson catcher Jesus Sucre was the only Southern League catcher with qualifying playing time to go without an error. He had a 1.000 fielding percentage in 769 total chances. Adding to his defensive credentials, he threw out 44.4 percent of basestealers.