Friday, August 08, 2008

Mariners' Brandon Morrow Plays Musical Chairs

Minor leaguers Jake Woods and Ryan Rowland-Smith stand to be the primary beneficiaries as the Mariners prepare to trade starter Jerrod Washburn and convert former top closer prospect Brandon Morrow into a starter.

At the same time, former starter Miguel Batista has been demoted to the bullpen, leaving a total of three holes in the Mariners rotation with the loss of injured ace Erik Bedard. Look for Wood or Rowland-Smith to claim at least one of the spots, though Woods seems to be holding down a bullpen position for now.

The spate of personnel moves appear to set the stage for the trade of Washburn to the Yankees, or perhaps to another suitor as other teams may try to claim him.

Though the non-waiver trading deadline has passed, Washburn would ordinarily have a high probability of going unclaimed because he is owed one more year on his four-year $37.5 million contract, which initially had been worth more than $50 million with incentives.

But any number of teams might find room for him -- not only to block the Yankees -- but to take advantage of the veteran lefty's recent rounding into form, as Washburn has a 3.24 ERA over his last 10 starts, games in which even the underperforming Mariners have managed an impressive six wins.

Washburn's career mark stands at 98-97.

Morrow -- the former UCLA starter whose fastball occasionally tops out at 98 mph -- is a major puzzle piece in the team's effort to fill the vacuum to be left by Washburn, with Wood and Smith-Rowland also looking to advance from Tacoma as the 25-man roster revamped before expanding to 40 players Sept. 1.

The team anticipates Morrow will be ready to start for the parent club well before the end of next month, though he has yet to throw more than 50 pitches in any of his minor league appearances.

Bedard meanwhile is expected to miss time for at least another three weeks. Though the Mariners have maintained loyalty to rotation mainstay Carlos Silva, it would appear the team would have little to lose by sitting Silva in favor of offering youngsters more chances to pitch, leaving yet another opening in the rotation, even if just for a start or two.

Lefties are hitting .344 against Silva, righties .300, as he has failed to last more than six innings in two of his last three starts.