King Felix and Prince Pineda? Mariners hand rotation spot to 22-year-old top prospect

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This morning’s news that the Mariners have optioned Luke French to Triple-A makes it all but official: Stud prospect Michael Pineda has secured a spot in the Opening Day rotation at age 22.

Pineda was big when the Mariners signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2005, but now he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. And he has the high-90s fastball and dominant results to match, splitting last season between Double-A and Triple-A while posting a 3.36 ERA and 154/34 K/BB ratio in 139 innings.

Last month Baseball America ranked him as the No. 16 prospect in all of baseball and Pineda apparently won the job with a 2.12 ERA and 15/6 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this spring.

Seattle’s offense may still be terrible this season and starting Pineda’s service time clock ticking seems like an iffy call, but the thought of Pineda developing into a top-of-the-rotation starter alongside the top-of-the-rotation starter Felix Hernandez should help Mariners fans get through the year in one piece.

Would it be too corny to call them King Felix and Prince Pineda?

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.