The final month of the season will see the Seattle Mariners go with some combination of seven starting pitchers.
The exact manner in which that combination will show itself has been sketched out by pitching coach Carl Willis and manager Eric Wedge, but for now, it's on a need-to-know basis.
The change starts Tuesday at Toronto when Erasmo Ramirez will make his first appearance since June. The 22-year-old was in the rotation in June before coming up with an elbow injury. He's been pitching with Class AAA Tacoma since recovering, going 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in August and 6-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts with the Rainiers overall.
Manager Eric Wedge said he wants to give both Ramirez and fellow right-hander Hector Noesi two starts the final month of the season. Noesi, 25, began the season in the Seattle rotation but was sent down after an eight-game losing streak dropped him to 2-11 with a 5.77 ERA. He went 2-6 with a 5.74 ERA in 11 starts for Tacoma.
Blake Beavan, whose promotion in July saw him win his first four starts, has struggled of late, and he's the first member of the rotation who will lose a start under the new setup. Beavan's turn in the rotation would have come Tuesday.
Kevin Millwood, who has won just twice since May, also is likely to lose a start or two this month, but he remains scheduled for a Wednesday start against the Blue Jays.
Wedge said he wanted to keep Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas pitching every five days. The one starter for whom there is no clear outline is right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. The veteran from Japan, who is in his first year in the major leagues, was knocked out by the Oakland A's in the fourth inning Saturday. Before that, he had a nine-game stretch in which he was 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA.
"We will continue to start Iwakuma," Wedge said, "but there may be time when he gets a few extra days. I don't want to say if he will get four starts or five starts, but I see him as having been pretty good for us. The progress he has made since March is real."
The manager went on to say that with Iwakuma coming off arm trouble in Japan last year, the fact that he was the long man in the Seattle bullpen and didn't pitch much in April and May has been a major asset during the second half of the season.
"He was still getting his arm strength back early on," Wedge said. "When he wasn't pitching a lot early, he had lots of time to work on the side. He's a lot stronger now, there's a lot of late action on his pitches, and there's lots of life on his fastball."