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Stottlemyre: With focus on bullpen, Mariners take pressure off starters

The Mariners believe they have built a strong bullpen around closer Edwin Diaz. (AP)

When Mel Stottlemyre Sr. got out of pro baseball after spending the 2008 season as Mariners pitching coach, he made a comment to his son Mel Jr. about how the game has changed.

Now entering his third season as Seattle’s pitching coach, Mel Jr. has seen the changes – specifically one to a more bullpen-laden game – first-hand. And with that considered, he told the Hot Stove show on 710 ESPN Seattle that he believes the Mariners have put themselves in a good spot with the bullpen they have put together for 2018.

Listen to the Hot Stove show: Hour 1 | Hour 2

“It takes the pressure off our starters (not) having to push them so hard, and hopefully with the acquisition of a guy that we made in the bullpen maybe we won’t have to lean as hard on the starters,” Stottlemyre said of the Mariners adding free agent signing Juan Nicasio to their group of relievers. “Maybe we can keep them healthy for 30 starts or so, which would be big for our ball club. (That is) something we really struggled with last year.”

Stottlemyre described the 31-year-old Nicasio as a “big, strong horse,” and with Nicasio coming off a career-best season in which he notched 22 holds and tied for the National League lead with 76 appearances, he is expected to give the Mariners both a solid set-up man for Edwin Diaz as well as some insurance should the young closer stumble.

“Having a young guy like Edi Diaz in the back of the game that’s still learning how to pitch – and we all kinda saw some of his little road blocks and bumps in the road that he went through and some of the changes that he’s made – he’s still not a complete guy,” Stottlemyre said. “But he’s electric and he’s still learning and he’s gonna be really, really good. And to add a guy like Nicasio into that mix that maybe when Edi struggles or whatever can take the ball in the ninth or a guy that can give us a lot of innings and a lot of appearances and has done that – I’m excited.”

Stottlemyre also talked about what he instructed Felix Hernandez to do differently this offseason and what makes James Paxton such a special starter in the interview. You can find the full segment in this podcast of the Hot Stove show.

James Paxton on his No. 1 priority for the 2018 Mariners season