Mariners manager Eric Wedge finalized his pitching rotation Monday, and the group includes top prospect Michael Pineda, who'll be Seattle's No. 5 starter to open the season.

The rotation will be Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard and the 22-year-old Pineda, who erased any doubts about his readiness with a strong spring, in which the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder posted a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings, with 15 strikeouts.

"It was wide open coming in," Wedge said. "You saw what I saw, a guy that was very consistent and kept getting better. And as we lengthened him out, he handled that very well. There were situations we thought he handled very well that he'll have to go through in the course of the regular season. All that enters into it."

There weren't any surprises in the announcement, given the way Spring Training has played out, but Wedge waited until starting contender Luke French was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday before making everything official.

Hernandez will make his fourth Opening Day start on Friday in Oakland, followed by Vargas on Saturday and Fister in Sunday afternoon's series finale.

Bedard, making his first regular-season start in 18 months, will take the mound Monday at Texas, and Pineda will pitch Tuesday against the Rangers.

That sets up Hernandez to make his second start in the Rangers' finale, with Vargas to get the home opener on Friday, April 8 against the Indians at Safeco Field.

"I see five guys that are going to go out there and give us a chance to win ballgames," said Wedge. "Obviously it starts with Felix, and you can't do any better than that. You've got to be really pleased with the way the other four guys have thrown the ball this spring as well."

The Mariners will be cautious with Pineda, but Wedge said he's not worried about the rookie's workload at this point.

"Any young pitcher, you have to keep a close eye on," Wedge said. "But he's big, he's strong, he's built up. Obviously no different than anybody else, we'll work off of him."

 

{seattlemariners.com}