Notebook: Bullpen help on the horizon, but do Mariners need it?
CHICAGO – After posting an ERA of 5.60 over the first 45 games of the season, the Mariners’ bullpen has allowed just 46 earned runs in its last 155.1 innings pitched. That’s good for a 2.67 ERA since then and a 1.59 in July, both the best marks in baseball over those spans.
In the first three games following the All-Star break, the pen has been front and center, picking up 14 innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out 14 in that time. As good as the pen has been, general manager Jerry Dipoto said on the Mariners Sunday Magazine Show that he is looking for another arm.
“We like that group; we would like to add to that group and find one more piece,” he said. “Maybe it is Emilio Pagan. We also have Shae Simmons, who is throwing mid- to upper-90s in his rehab assignment. At least we see something of hope on the horizon on Shae.”
Simmons, who has been out since mid-March with an elbow strain, has made four rehab appearances this month and is expected to join Triple-A Tacoma shortly. When healthy he could provide manager Scott Servais with another interesting option in the pen as a different look: a right-handed power arm. What he doesn’t bring is a ton of experience, something the pen lacks and accounts for some of the clunkers that have offset the success of the pen from time to time over the last two months. Tony Zych and Steve Cishek continue to take steps forward, however, as they add more distance from their offseason surgeries. More and more, the righties are showing much-needed consistency, giving Servais more to go to in tight situations. It’s a very different story from not too long ago.
As for the rest of the team, Dipoto is looking for the vets to lead the way in the second half, something we have seen so far with Robinson Cano getting off to a good start following the All-Star break by providing needed runs in Game 1 in Chicago, and Nelson Cruz following up in the next two games with big home runs.
“You always look to the veteran players, particularly in July and August, to lead the way. They have been there before,” Dipoto pointed out. “Our young players have truly carried us to the point we are; they have performed extra well. Now it is time for the veteran core to step up and do the things that veteran players do. And they do that. They’ve shown it.”
• The Mariners will need to make a move before Tuesday’s Game 2 in Houston to get Sam Gaviglio back on the 25-man roster and in the starting rotation. Gaviglio has faced the Astros once before, allowing two runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in a 5-2 Mariners loss on June 24 at Safeco.
• The Mariners would prefer to carry an extra arm in the pen, but with Mitch Haniger day-to-day with a jammed finger that might be hard to do.
• Hisashi Iwakuma is not traveling with the team on this trip but reportedly did resume playing catch in Seattle over the weekend. There is no timetable for his return from shoulder inflammation.
• The Mariners won three games in three different ways in Chicago: a solid win Friday, a sloppy win Saturday and a comeback win Sunday. Two things that all three wins had in common was great relief work and four or more runs put up by the offense. Yep, the magic number four. The team is now 43-15 when they score four or more.