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Mariners notebook: Balancing an eight-man bullpen

PHILADELPHIA – If there was any question about manager Lloyd McClendon’s commitment to the eight-man bullpen, that was put to rest when the Mariners optioned outfielder James Jones to Tacoma prior to a three-game series in a National League park.

Conventional thinking – heck, McClendon’s original thinking – was that the Mariners would move a reliever in order to bring up Roenis Elias for a start. When Brandon Maurer was added to the pen, bringing the number of relievers on the roster to eight, McClendon said that they could go with that number until they traveled Philadelphia in August. Well, here we are and there are still eight in the pen.

Instead of having to manage innings to make sure the relievers aren’t overused, McClendon has had to go in the opposite direction and make sure that certain guys don’t get too much rest. We saw that last night with Fernando Rodney being brought into a non-save situation.

“He had been off four days and I just did not want him to go five days without pitching,” McClendon said. “I don’t want my closer going that long without pitching.”

For McClendon, four is the magic number when it comes to rest, especially with Rodney.

“Because command can become an issue with him from time to time,” McClendon said. “If he is not out there on a regular basis, if you ask him to close a game without being out there, it could become an issue.”

McClendon believes the eight-man pen has worked out well for them and pointed to the ability to stretch guys when needed, knowing that they could get a few days off after that. Still, when things are going well it can be tough to find innings. In the last week, Dominic Leone and Tom Wilhelmsen pitched in a game after not getting into one for four days.

“Four days is the max for me,” McClendon said. “I like to see the number where guys can get three days. That means they are really fresh and ready to go. But when you start getting into four days, then rust starts coming into play.”

No danger of that currently as Danny Farquhar and Joe Beimel have the longest stretch of not pitching, which dates back only to Saturday.


Austin Jackson, 8
Dustin Ackley, 7
Robinson Cano, 4
Kyle Seager, 5
Logan Morrison, 3
Endy Chavez, 7
Mike Zunino, 2
Brad Miller, 6
Hisashi Iwakuma, 1


Logan Morrison is back at first base after playing right field yesterday. This puts Kendrys Morales on the bench. He won’t be there for long.

“My thought process was make sure I play those guys two out of three,” McClendon said. “It also gets Mo off his feet a little bit so he doesn’t play back-to-back at first base because that is kind of tough not having done it all year. He’ll play first tomorrow.”

While admitting that he doesn’t have a Gold Glove candidate at the position right now, McClendon is pleased with what he has seen in the field from both Morales and Morrison.

“His hands look more than adequate, he moves around well, he does a decent job there,” McClendon said of Morales.

• There are reports that outfielder Rusney Castillo – who defected from Cuba – is close to signing and that the Mariners are one of the six teams considered to be favorites to land him. As I reported earlier this month, a private workout that was scheduled with the Mariners was canceled and expected to be rescheduled. I have heard but have yet to confirm that they saw Castillo this past weekend. The Cubs are thought to be the most aggressive in their pursuit of Castillo.

• While he still has a long way to go in his comeback from shoulder surgery, Danny Hultzen has been making progress in Arizona. He has been throwing bullpens from the mound – fastball only – the last few weeks and in the last couple of days has begun to throw breaking balls. There is no timetable for his return but the hope is he will be able to get up on the mound in instructional league games this fall.

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