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Mariners release Ramirez

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Seattle Mariners released pitcher
Horacio Ramirez on Wednesday, giving up on the underperforming left-hander they acquired in a trade 15 months ago.

Seattle got Ramirez from Atlanta for reliever Rafael Soriano before last season. The 28-year-old Ramirez then went 8-7 with a 7.16 ERA in 20 starts and spent nearly two months on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder.

Last month's trade for ace Erik Bedard and the offseason signing of free-agent starter Carlos Silva left Ramirez in a short-lived spring training battle with R.A. Dickey for a job as a long reliever.

Soriano went 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA and nine saves in 71 games last season for the Braves, who gave him a $9 million, two-year contract in January. He will start this season as Atlanta's closer.

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi has been roundly criticized for the deal that brought the oft-injured Ramirez to Seattle to be the team's No. 4 starter last season.

"It illustrates the difficulty of acquiring starting pitching and the economy of starting pitching," Bavasi said of Ramirez's flameout. "We can build a bullpen economically. But starting pitching, you can't do that economically."

Last fall, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong hinted the Ramirez-for-Soriano trade wasn't Bavasi's fault, that it happened for more than just baseball reasons.

Armstrong said last Sept. 27, without naming specific off-field incidents, that "a lot of things went on that compelled us to make that move" of Soriano for whatever the Mariners could get.

The Mariners signed Ramirez to a $2.75 million, one-year contract in January, as insurance for the rotation in case they didn't complete their long-pursued trade for Bedard from Baltimore. By releasing Ramirez on Wednesday instead of Thursday, the Mariners saved $229,167, a prorated portion of his salary for 2008.

Ramirez, who allowed three runs in five innings over two appearances this month, appeared stunned by the move. He quietly and politely refused to answer questions as he walked away from his Mariners locker less than an hour before his now-former team played the
Milwaukee Brewers.

"Not today. Thanks for everything," he said, softly.

Teammates came by to offer encouragement that another team will soon sign him. If he clears waivers, as expected, the five-year veteran who went 12-4 with Atlanta in 2003 will become a free agent.

His departure suggests Dickey has apparently won the long-relief, spot-starter job -- though Bavasi would not comment on if that was so.

The 33-year-old knuckleballer, who hasn't been in the major leagues in 23 months, has to stay on Seattle's major league roster all season or be offered back to Minnesota for $25,000. That is per the regulations of the winter meeting draft (Rule 5) that brought Dickey to Seattle.

The former first-round draft choice of Texas has allowed just one run and four hits in seven innings this spring, even though Arizona's dry air is notorious for mitigating movement on pitches.

"He has shown some good knuckleballs, even in the thin air. So we are getting a good feeling on what he's about," manager John McLaren said, before the team announced Ramirez's release.