Elias delivers solid start in pursuit of rotation spot

Amid competition, left-hander focused on helping Mariners

Elias delivers solid start in pursuit of rotation spot

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Roenis Elias had another solid start Friday as the 26-year-old Cuban continues making his bid for the fifth spot in the Mariners' rotation, but the competition remains fierce for that final opening on Seattle's starting staff.

Elias gave up five hits and two runs (one earned) in four-plus innings in the Mariners' 4-4 tie against the Rangers, putting his Cactus League ERA at 3.86 after four spring starts. The left-hander started 29 games and was a 10-game winner as a rookie last year, but is in a tough race this spring with up-and-coming right-hander Taijuan Walker.

Walker has yet to allow a run in 12 innings in his own four starts, setting a high bar for Elias if Seattle's first four starters -- Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and J.A. Happ -- all stay healthy.

Outlook: Elias, SP, SEA

But Elias says he's not worrying about what Walker has done this spring.

"No, the team knows what I did last year at the Major League level," Elias said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "Taijuan is having a great spring, and I'm happy for him because he's doing really well. But at the end of the day, we both want the same thing. We both want to help the team win."

Elias got out of trouble in the first despite a leadoff triple, but gave up a run in the third on a bunt, an infield single, a balk and a sacrifice fly. He surrendered another run in the fifth after walking the first two batters before being replaced by Charlie Furbush, who eventually walked in one of the runs with the bases loaded.

"I thought his first three innings were very sharp," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He looked like he fatigued a little bit and tried to throw harder and harder and harder and got into trouble a little bit."

Elias said he lost a little control of his curveball in the fifth before being replaced after throwing 72 pitches, but overall was pleased with his outing.

"I was just trying to stay in the zone and control pitches," he said. "The manager wants me to work on throwing more strikes and I just want to focus on that."

Both Elias and Walker have time for up to three more starts this spring, so the competition is far from finished and McClendon has said he'll let things go down to the wire before making any decisions.

Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez has also pitched well in pursuit of that final spot as he's 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts. Ramirez, who is out of Minor League options, makes his next start Monday against the Angels in Tempe.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.