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Report: Mariners prospect Michael Pineda favored for rotation spot

Mar 14, 2011, 9:30 PM EDT

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Mariners prospect right-hander Michael Pineda has garnered all sorts of attention this spring by flashing mid-to-high 90s heat on the radar gun.

And while spring training performances aren’t the be-all end-all, he has also pitched pretty well, posting a 2.57 ERA and 5/3 K/BB ratio over his first seven Cactus League innings. Still, the assumption has been that the 22-year-old will remain in the minor leagues until June in an effort to delay his service time.

Not so, at least according to what Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has heard from multiple sources. In fact, Baker hears that the final spot in the starting rotation is “Pineda’s to lose.”

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik won’t confirm Baker’s report, but said that Pineda’s service time won’t have an impact on his decision.

“I don’t think we’re going to worry about service time,” Zduriencik told me. “No one’s going to hold them back. If they’re ready to play, we’re going to let them play.”

In other words, if he continues to pitch well, he’s in.

Standing at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Pineda has a 2.49 ERA over parts of five seasons in the minors. After being limited to 47 1/3 innings in 2009 due to elbow soreness, he posted a 3.36 ERA over 25 starts between Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma last season, averaging 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

Nate Robertson needs elbow surgery and Zduriencik essentially dismissed David Pauley as an option during today’s conversation with Baker, so that leaves Luke French as the only reasonable alternative to Pineda.

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