Back problems continue to sideline Maurer

Back problems continue to sideline Maurer

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A stop-and-start spring for Brandon Maurer has ground to a halt again as the young Mariners right-hander will likely be sidelined for another week due to ongoing back problems that have haunted him since the start of camp.

Maurer, 23, was a Cactus League surprise for Seattle last year when he earned a rotation berth with a strong spring and jumped from Double-A straight to the Majors.

But things aren't going nearly as well this camp as Maurer has thrown just twice this spring -- giving up five runs in 4 2/3 innings -- and now is back in the training room trying to find answers for a back issue he originally thought was just a minor tweak from sleeping wrong.

"He's still banged up," manager Lloyd McClendon said Saturday. "He's getting treatment every day, but he's not ready to go. My guess is he'll probably be another six or seven days before he can go."

McClendon acknowledged "that's not good" at this time of spring for a pitcher trying to compete for a rotation berth. Maurer effectively is out of the running now to break camp in the starting five, which also won't have Hisashi Iwakuma (sprained finger tendon) and Taijuan Walker (bursitis in his shoulder) ready for at least the first few weeks of the season.

That leaves Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan as the returning candidates, with veteran non-roster invitees Scott Baker and Randy Wolf also competing for spots along with left-hander Roenis Elias, who was pitching in Double-A last year.

Maurer went 5-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 22 games, including 14 starts, in 2013. The Mariners were hoping that initial experience would allow the 6-foot-5 California native to take a strong step forward this spring, but that has yet to happen due to his health situation.

"It's frustrating," Maurer said. "I haven't thrown yet, so I'm just trying to wait it out until it feels good instead of trying to rush it. It's not anything crazy, just muscles or something. But it really is a pain in the butt. It's no fun.

"I just have to take it one day at a time," he said. "I'm just letting it rest and waiting till it calms down, then I'll get after it."

Greg Johns is a reporter for 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.