With the day’s roster set, general manager Jerry Dipoto was able to join the Mariners Magazine Show on Sunday morning. By the end of the afternoon, his club’s 32nd game was in the books (a 4-3 win over the Rangers) and he had seen the team’s 15th different reliever used out of the bullpen. The revolving door in the ‘pen is a new normal for the 2017 Mariners that, in truth, is anything but.
“It has been a challenging five weeks, particularly a challenging 10 days with all of the movement in the Major League roster,” Dipoto admitted.
We’re just 32 games into the season and the Mariners have already used 37 players, including 13 rookies. Add lefty Ariel Miranda and closer Edwin Diaz to the mix and that is 15 players with well under a year of big-league service time.
With nine players currently on the DL, Seattle’s depth has been pressed early. While it would be easy for the Mariners to sink into doom and gloom – particularly when taking into account the M’s poor start despite relatively good health – the team has relied on individual players stepping up and carrying the group at any given time.
This week, it was the starters. Miranda gave the team his second seven-inning start and Chase De Jong, who before this year had pitched all of one outing above Double-A, provided a strong six-inning start. Then there were the veterans: Hisashi Iwakuma managing to stay in the game after getting hit in the knee Wednesday and Yovani Gallardo’s performance that would seem to indicate he possesses step-up potential as well.
Dipoto believes we will see that going forward.
“I do think, for the most part, Gallardo has pitched much better than his numbers,” he said. “His FIP (fielding independent pitching) is much lower than his ERA. The components are there for him to be very good. We have seen velocity all year long; we have seen him start to sequence his pitches in a better way. He’s kept the walks in check, he’s kept the ball in the ballpark. The veteran presence, with Felix (Hernandez) and (James) Paxton down, is huge and I believe we saw that the other night. My expectation of him moving forward is he continues doing what he has been doing and the results start to add up to the process, because the process has been pretty solid.”
Three-fifths of the intended rotation are on the DL. But “hang-on” time could turn out to be slightly shorter than originally anticipated.
“Felix is actually running ahead of schedule,” Dipoto said. “In an optimistic world, we get him back in the next home stand, which is, fingers crossed, right about the time when we hope to expect to get James Paxton back.”
Dipoto pointed to outfield defense as an element critical to the pitchers’ success with the group. Despite the losses of Mitch Haniger (injury) and Leonys Martin (designated for assignment), the Mariners are still second in baseball in terms of defensive runs saved.
“I don’t think too many balls hit the ground,” Dipoto said before pointing to a younger player who has turned in an eye-opening performance in the outfield.
“Guillermo Heredia is among the best defenders in the game,” Dipoto stated. “Guillermo is remarkable. He’s the best ball reader I have seen in years. When he picks the ball up off the bat, that initial break on the ball is remarkable. We have watched good outfield play here all year long, but ‘G’ really stands out for what he has done.”
Dipoto also laid out what we could see at catcher and first base in the immediate future. Dipoto expects an even, or near-even, split between Carlos Ruiz and Tuffy Gosewisch behind the plate, leaning toward Gosewisch getting a few more starts. Dipoto doesn’t want to see the 38-year-old Ruiz run into the ground. First base will mostly be handled by Danny Valencia but Dipoto said that Taylor Motter should get a fair amount of play there, too, ultimately getting three to four starts each week at different positions.