Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon didn't hide his disappointment last week after right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez had his second consecutive subpar start in a 3-1 home loss to the Athletics.
"I am concerned. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't because he's a command guy," McClendon said after Ramirez took 94 pitches to complete five innings while giving up three runs and walking three.
Rangers Opening Day starter Tanner Scheppers, a setup reliever last season, was in a similar state of mind after allowing five runs in seven innings of a 6-5 loss last week to the Astros. Scheppers lowered his ERA to 7.88 and picked up a no-decision.
Both young hurlers get their chance to make amends as the Rangers go for the series win this afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Ramirez, 23, is 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts this season -- all of which came against American League West opponents. Scheppers, 27, is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA and a troubling 1.63 WHIP in three starts.
His latest hit its nadir when he gave up five runs in the fourth inning.
"I thought he did a great job but in the fourth inning; he just couldn't stop them," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The first through the third [innings] were great, and the fifth until I had to go get him were great. You're going to give up runs, but you've got to minimize the damage. It's a learning experience."
In his 2014 debut on April 1, Ramirez didn't walk anybody in seven innings. He allowed two runs and six hits in an 8-3 win over the Angels. In his two starts since -- each against Oakland -- he has allow eight runs on 12 hits and six walks in nine combined innings.
"It's more mental. Mechanically, everything is OK," Ramirez said following his latest setback. "My body feels great, so everything about my mechanics are OK."
It probably isn't make-or-break time for the Nicaraguan. The Mariners have lost three starters (Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton) to injuries dating back to the start of the calendar year.
Meanwhile, Scheppers is trying to secure his spot in the Rangers' rotation. Left-handed pitcher Matt Harrison returns from his rehab gig -- presumably next week -- and Derek Holland returns midseason from offseason microfracture surgery to repair a knee he hurt while playing with his dog, Wrigley.
On Thursday, both inexperienced starters can improve their bids to keep permanent rotation gigs.
For Ramirez, it starts with finding his command.
"He's a strike-thrower, and in his last two outings he's pitched behind in the count quite a bit, but that's something we're going to have to address and we're going to have to correct," said McClendon.
Scheppers said he's been tweaking his mechanics and trying to avoid getting "lazy" when working from the stretch.
"I just want take everything I've learned from my previous starts and put it all together," Scheppers said. "Attack with my fastball and go from there. There have been some things to build on, but at the end of the day I have to keep faith in my ability, stay strong, keep my team in the game and let the offense score some runs."
Mariners: Franklin to play second base
Infielder Nick Franklin was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and started at designated hitter on Wednesday, tripling in his first at-bat. The plan is for Franklin to play second base this afternoon.
McClendon said Franklin, 23, will play multiple positions throughout the year so the Mariners can maximize his at-bats. In his 11-game stint with the Rainiers, he hit .395 with four home runs. Franklin won't play second base often, but Robinson Cano -- the man who displaced Franklin when he signed a 10-year deal in December -- will DH on occasion.
McClendon said Franklin will play some outfield when Seattle faces a left-handed pitcher and he wants his switch-hitting bat in the lineup. Franklin only got a couple of innings in right field during Spring Training, though he did play the position growing up. He'll also get spot starts at second, short and third base.
"Nick's a former outfielder. He's not a neophyte," McClendon said. "It's like riding a bike, you've been out there, you get back on it and ride it again. … Nick wants to play, so I'm sure he'll embrace it."
Rangers: 'Paper Boy' faces his former team
Rangers infielder Josh Wilson had no choice but to accept the nickname when he played for the Mariners from 2009-10. Determining which veteran slugger coined it is another debate altogether.
One version: Seeing Wilson's boyish looks for the first time in 2009, Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. dubbed Wilson "The Paper Boy." Makes sense. But during Wednesday's M's television broadcast, color commentator Mike Blowers claimed that former Mariners DH Mike Sweeney thought it up.
Either way, the moniker caught on as Wilson gained a reputation for delivering clutch hits late in games. The club and Wilson eventually parted ways in 2011. The year prior, he appeared in 108 games and hit .227/.278/.294 in 388 plate appearances.
• Despite the injury-depleted rotation, the Mariners entered Wednesday's 3-2 walk-off loss to Texas ranked second in the American League with a 2.85 ERA, best in club history through the first 13 games of the season.
• Entering Wednesday, Texas reliever Shawn Tolleson led the Rangers bullpen with a 1.59 ERA. However, Washington is still trying to define Tolleson's role after the club picked him up on waivers from the Dodgers over the winter. Tolleson sat out almost all of last season with a herniated disc in his lower back.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.