Before the Mariners began their final home stand prior to the All-Star break, Mariners insider Shannon Drayer visited with the “Bob and Groz” show on 710 ESPN Seattle to talk about the status of the team.
Here’s a look at some of the topics covered.
• Drayer said that while the pitching rotation has performed above and beyond expectations, there is still a sense of urgency to get 25-year-old left-hander James Paxton back from the lat and shoulder issues that have kept him sidelined since early April.
“(Hisashi Iwakuma has) been on a downward trend his last three-four outings. Taijuan Walker, he’s young, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from him,” Drayer said.
Division-leading Oakland’s blockbuster trade with the Cubs that brought Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s rotation complicates matters, too.
“if you look at all that and then you look at what the A’s did, and they had the top rotation in baseball, you’re always looking to add to that,” Drayer said. “I think they do want to get James Paxton back, I don’t think they want to rush him. I think they’d like to handle it the way they did with Taijuan Walker where, ‘We’re not just going to look for you to be healthy when you’re down in Triple-A even though you won the position. We want you to have some success and feel comfortable about what you’re doing and be absolutely 100 percent before we bring you back.'”
Drayer estimated that Paxton will be back with Seattle in about three weeks.
• Roenis Elias, another rookie southpaw starter, has hit a snag after giving up five runs in each of his last two starts. Elias had a 3.53 ERA on July 1 but it has since ballooned to 4.19, and while it’s a cause for concern, it’s but nothing out of the ordinary for a rookie hurler, according to Drayer.
“You’re looking at more of a situation where it’s consistency. It’s knowing what to do when you don’t have your best stuff. It’s getting to your best stuff very early in a ball game,” she said. “You see this with young pitchers quite a bit, they’ll get into the game and they’ll think they have the luxury of working their way into the game. ‘Let’s find out what’s working here or there’ and whatnot, and they’ll usually lead with that fastball, and if it’s not right there it’s gonna get hit early. That’s what I think we’ve seen with him. I think he’s become a little more reliant on that fastball, I don’t think he’s been throwing the curve quite as much.”
Another issue could be his workload. He reached nearly 150 innings pitched in a season in the minors, but he’s already to 109 2/3 innings in 2014.
“He might be tiring a little bit. He’s thrown quite a bit in this first half,” Drayer said.
• General manager Jack Zduriencik has already been rumored to be working the phones furiously to make trades, and with the trade deadline set for the end of the month, it’s turning to crunch time. The question isn’t so much whether he’ll target pitching or hitting, but rather how many trades he’s looking to make.
“I think Jack Zduriencik would like to make more than one trade,” Drayer said. “You build on your strengths where you can. … I think he would like to add to this starting rotation and I think he would dearly like to add a right-handed bat, and the question now will be can you make a blockbuster move like Oakland did?”
Not only that, but what kind of budget does Jack Z have considering how much money the team has tied up in All-Stars Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez.
“Are they going to be able to afford it in both dollars and prospects?” Drayer asked.