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At this point, the Mariners' starting rotation is probably the biggest uncertainty for the team. Felix Hernandez, yes. Jason Vargas, almost definitely. But who else?
Well, there are a number of guys who could assume starting responsibilities, some of whom saw time at the end of last year, and others who have yet to make a major league start.
In the first category, we have Charlie Furbush, Blake Beavan and Anthony Vasquez. Collectively and individually, they looked pretty rough last August and September, but Beavan showed some potential, and things could flip around this Spring.
The second category holds James Paxton and a couple of other guys that will appear later.
(Also, there is a third miscellaneous category with free agent signing Kevin Millwood and Japanese veteran Hisashi Iwakuma.)
Paxton's performance in two years since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft can best be described as stellar. He's quickly moved up through the minors, and his quality of pitching increases with the level of play.
After a midseason promotion to Double-A last year, he pitched seven games, going 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA and an astronomical 11.2 K/9 ratio. He has shown every sign of readiness for the next level, so he'll certainly be in contention for a rotation spot this Spring.
If he continues to pitch so well against the next level of talent during Spring Training, it would be a welcome treat.