Rotation hopeful Maurer is enjoying the ride

Rotation hopeful Maurer is enjoying the ride

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brandon Maurer figures the only way for him to thrive in the heated competition for a Mariners starting spot is to just have fun. And the big 22-year-old displayed a little of that side after holding the Giants to one run in five innings in a 6-3 victory Tuesday.

While "The Big Three" pitching prospects of Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton have all been sent down to the Minors, the lone remaining survivor was asked if the Big Three should really be the Fantastic Four.

"I live with two of them [Walker and Paxton] and we're real good friends," Maurer said. "Hultzen is also in there. We all support each other. I want to be the Torch, if anyone asks."

The Torch? That would be a reference to one of the Fantastic Four superheroes. So who would the other three be?

"Hultzen would be the Jessica Alba, we'll go with Taijuan as the stretchy guy," Maurer said. "And The Thing could be Pax. We'll go with that."

Maurer is just going with the flow on everything this spring, and the results have been impressive. He's allowed just two runs in 15 innings and held the Giants to three hits on a night he acknowledged his fastball command wasn't sharp, so he had to rely more on his sinker.

Manager Eric Wedge said the chance to see Maurer compete against a good Giants lineup under the lights in front of a sellout crowd of 11,188 was as close to a Major League setting as you can get at this point and another plus for a pitcher few were talking about coming into camp.

"He wasn't off the radar for us," Wedge said. "The other three get so much publicity, but just talking to everybody in the Minor League camp that had seen him pitch, we fully expected him to come in here and compete. That's what he's done, that's why he's still here and that's why he's still pitching."

Maurer is competing with young returners Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez as well as veterans Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman for the final two starting spots behind Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders. He's the only one in that group who has never pitched in the Majors.

"He has Major League stuff," Wedge said. "We feel strongly he'll be able to get Major League outs. It's just a matter as we prep everything out, the decisions we have to make, you have to take everything into consideration ... the experience level and what the other guys have done and match that up to what he's done. We don't have to make any decisions yet. We've still got some time."

And how is Maurer dealing with all that?

"I'm just trying to have fun," he said. "I had a lot of fun today, so I'll take it as a win. I'm just coming in and doing my stuff every day. If I'm pitching up here or pitching down there, it's still pitching."

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.