Feierabend out to snag roster spot

Southpaw Feierabend out to snag roster spot

PEORIA, Ariz. -- One of the first things Mariners manager Mike Hargrove noticed about left-hander Ryan Feierabend was the young pitcher's composure.

As it turns out, Freierabend's mound coolness has less to do with baseball than it has to do with real life.

While most 17- and 18-year-old high school kids are thinking about proms and college, Feierabend's focus during his senior year in Elyria, Ohio was on his mom, Linda.

"My mother has had a lot of health problems," he said. "My dad worked night shifts, so when I was home, I had to take care of her. It started to get real bad after high school."

Selected by the Mariners in the third round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Feierabend left home to pursue his Major League dream, landing first in Peoria, where he pitched in six games, including five starts, posted a 2-3 record and 2.61 ERA for the organization's rookie team.

His trek through the farm system went rapidly. He spent the 2004 season with Class A Wisconsin (9-7, 3.63 ERA ); was promoted to Class A Inland Empire in '05 (8-7, 3.88 ERA) and to Double-A San Antonio last season (9-12, 4.28 ERA) before being promoted to the Mariners on Sept. 8 -- skipping Triple-A Tacoma altogether.

Feierabend made his MLB debut five days later, tossing two perfect innings of relief against the Blue Jays, and after a second relief outing -- four shutout innings against the Royals -- he was given his first big-league starting assignment, on Sept. 24 against the White Sox in Chicago.

He surrendered three home runs that game and was charged with the loss. But it was a great day, nonetheless, as his parents were among the spectators at U.S. Cellular Park.

"It was not the greatest outing," Feierabend said.

Even so, he started one more game, held the Rangers to two runs over five innings and went home for the winter, got married and moved into the Elyria house his wife and their parents had selected and purchased -- with his blessing, of course.

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The house had been painted and furnished by the time he returned home, as shipshape as his future with the Mariners seemed.

His status as potential mainstay in the starting rotation heading into Spring Training seemed bright.

But that changed on Jan. 30 when the Mariners signed free-agent pitcher Jeff Weaver, giving the team five starters with more MLB service time. Suddenly, Feierabend's chances of starting the 2007 season where he left the '06 season took a big hit.

But he didn't take it as a personal snub.

"They got Weaver for his postseason experience and to be a leader for the younger guys," Feierabend said. "If that's what they had to do, go out and get someone to help the team, that's fine. That's a front-office decision. I respect that."

Feierabend kept his chin and spirits up and reported to camp in early February determined to pitch well and remind the front office that they'll have a tough time cutting him.

He is one 18 pitchers still in camp, which is six more than the team will carry into the regular season.

"If I basically do my job, I can make it tough on the organization to make a decision," Feierabend said. "That's all I can do. If they don't think I am doing a good enough job and need to work on something, that's fine, too. I just hope to figure in the equation at some point of the year."

His philosophy off the field seems to be the same as when he's on the field.

"When I was growing up, my dad [Don] always told me to have an even keel on the mound, no matter what," he said. "Never get too high or too low."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.