After posting a sub-4.00 ERA in his rookie season, Ariel Miranda failed to match that level of success in Year 2, issuing more walks and remaining very susceptible to the long ball (2.08 HR/9). That he made 29 starts last season speaks to the rash of injuries that wiped out the organization's starting pitching depth. If he gets another chance to start, whether it's in Seattle or elsewhere, he'll need to find a way to keep right-handed bats from teeing off against him, as 32 of the 37 homers he gave up last season came against righties. Miranda's home numbers (3.95 ERA, .196 BAA) and first-half splits (4.15 ERA, .215 BAA) offer some hope that he can be molded into a more palatable back-end starter, but he'll need to improve his fastball command and significantly increase the use of his slider, which was his only above-average offering despite minimal use (5.3 percent) for that to happen. In the current MLB landscape, this is what a replacement-level starting pitcher looks like.
Miranda (1-0) allowed two earned runs on five hits and a walk over four innings in a 6-2 Cactus League win over the Athletics on Thursday. He struck out four. Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman combined to tag Miranda for a trio of two-baggers, with the latter's pair of doubles leading to both of the runs the southpaw allowed. He was otherwise sharp during what was a spring-high amount of innings, notching four whiffs for the second straight outing. Miranda remains in contention for the fifth and final spot in the rotation to open the season, and Thursday's outing figures to have helped his case.
Miranda, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, has reintroduced a slider into his arsenal of pitches, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports. "I started working on the slider last year and it worked well," Miranda said in Spanish. "I mean, I always had it, but I didn't throw it very much because in Cuba, you don't throw it or need it. It was just fastball and changeup. You can't do that here in the major leagues." The 28-year-old was fastball-heavy last season, throwing the pitch on 1,969 occasions according to Statcast, while adding 692 breaking balls. Miranda has been fine-tuning the grip on the slider, which he's been experimenting with since the start of spring. The results thus far have been mixed -- he's allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and five walks over eight exhibition frames, while also recording eight strikeouts. The southpaw is hoping the addition of a new pitch will help his bid to stick on the Opening Day roster and improve on the 5.12 ERA he generated across 160 innings in his rookie campaign a year ago.
Miranda could open the season as the Mariners' fifth starter if Erasmo Ramirez (lat) isn't ready for Opening Day, Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports. At this point, it seems like Ramirez won't be ready for Opening Day, but the Mariners don't actually need a fifth starter for the first couple weeks of the season due to the placement of their off-days. The Mariners could still opt to go with a five-man rotation, however, which could open the door for Miranda to crack the rotation once again. The southpaw struggled last season to the tune of a 5.12 ERA, but he's shown some improvement in two spring starts and could boost his stock with a few more good appearances, the next which is scheduled for Saturday against the Reds. According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, Miranda also threw the ball extremely well in a 40-pitch outing against minor leaguers Monday. Andrew Moore would also be in the conversation for the final rotation spot.
Miranda is competing for a spot in the back end of the team's rotation this spring, but will likely wind up being utilized as a depth piece out of the Mariners' bullpen in 2018, Shannon Drayer of mynorthwest.com reports. Manager Scott Servais said Miranda needs to work on secondary pitches after giving up 37 home runs in 160 innings last year. The southpaw started 29 games for the team in 2017 but was moved into a relief role in mid-September after struggling during the latter stages of the campaign. Marco Gonzales seems to have the inside track for the final spot in the rotation, which will leave Miranda and Andrew Moore on the outside looking in. If that is the case, expect to see Miranda as a middle reliever for the 2018 season.
Miranda, who gave up five earned runs on four hits and a walk over an inning in his most recent appearance versus the Indians on Saturday, could log additional relief outings during the season's final week, Josh Horton of MLB.com reports. The Cuban southpaw has sputtered over his last six starts, generating a 6.81 ERA and allowing 11 home runs and a .383 wOBA in 37 innings during that span. Miranda has allowed a majors-high 37 round trippers overall while making a team-high 29 starts. Manager Scott Servais has already determined that Miranda won't log another start, but he also doesn't want to shut him down altogether for the final week, hence the possibility of him making a couple of relief appearances as the season winds down.