Maurer strong in first live batting practice

Maurer strong in first live batting practice

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After a one-week setback with a stiff back, Brandon Maurer threw his first live batting practice of the spring on Sunday as the young Mariners right-hander began working his way back into the starting rotation competition.

"I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I was very pleased. He threw all four of his pitches, threw strikes, and he looked real good."

Maurer was the surprise of camp last year, making the jump from Double-A ball to the starting five to open the season. That was a big leap for the 6-foot-5 California native, who went 5-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 22 outings (14 starts). But he benefited from the experience and could challenge again for a roster berth if he takes a strong step forward this spring.

Though Maurer worked out of the bullpen at times last year, McClendon said the 23-year-old is definitely in the starting mix this spring.

"I saw him live against us in Detroit last year," McClendon said. "I thought his stuff was tremendous. Plus fastball, plus slider. I think the biggest thing with him is getting connected with his inner self and understanding who he is and what he's all about when he's on that mound and not getting too emotional.

"If you're a starter, you can't get too caught up in the emotions. You have to keep everything under control and that's one of the things he's working on this spring."

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.