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Drayer: Mariners glad to have Alex Colomé to turn to with Edwin Díaz needing rest

Mariners reliever Alex Colomé will bring an 18.2 scoreless innings streak into his next outing. (AP)

SAN FRANCISCO – Coming on the heels of Edwin Díaz’s baseball heroics, a key figure in the Mariners’ series against Oakland will be Alex Colomé.

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After pitching four days in a row – Díaz called down to the dugout Sunday on what was to be an off day, telling his team his arm felt good and that he wanted the ball in the series finale – Díaz will certainly be down in Monday’s Game 1 against the Athletics and could possibly be down a second day during the series due to his usage in Houston. The next man up in the ninth is Colomé, who for over a month now has been matching Díaz in dependability.

Colomé brings an 18.2 scoreless innings streak into his next outing, a streak that helps put away a rockier time in his short Mariners career. Colomé arrived in Seattle in a trade from the Rays as the American League’s reigning saves leader with 47 in 2017. He got off to a good start with the Mariners, saving a game against the Twins in his first appearance on a day when Díaz needed a break.

Soon after, as he was settling into his eighth inning role, things began to go haywire. He gave up runs in multiple games against his former team. He blew a save that cost the team a win at Yankee Stadium. On June 27, he failed to protect another lead, giving up a three-run home run to Chris Davis in Baltimore.

Since then, nothing. In the 18 appearances that have followed, he has struck out 19 batters and allowed no runs. It has been a dramatic turnaround with huge credit going to the player, but he didn’t do it without help. With the disaster in Baltimore came opportunity.

“You let these guys show you who they are,” manager Scott Servais said of working with new players. “Once we saw where Alex was headed, he was very upset after that ballgame. That just doesn’t happen to him as far as making a mistake at a crucial part of the ballgame. When players get frustrated, they talk. They open up a little bit. At that point we interjected a couple of things to him and he took it and ran with it.”

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. had already gone to work on a plan to make Colomé more effective. He had looked at the numbers and seen that he was relying too much on his cutter. As a two-pitch pitcher, he had become predictable. He also wasn’t leaving himself much room for error, and this where Stottlemyre could help.

“It’s a good cutter, one that he can live and die with,” Stottlemyre pointed out. “But I noticed where he threw his fastballs, a lot of four-seam away from righties and very seldom away from lefties. When he gets in trouble, the cutter is not moving off the barrel, living in same area he had pitched in so often. We started the talks of pitching in a little more with the four-seam to buy him a couple of inches of plate with his cutter.”

What we have seen in the weeks since have been more uncomfortable at-bats against Colomé – not just because he has sat a couple of hitters down pitching inside, but because he is showing a different look with his fastball location. That in turn, is making his cutter look different.

“Teams get to know him,” said Stottlemyre. “They know he loves to live glove-side to the plate. Moving forward it becomes more important to give him more weapons, more options.”

Along with the improved depth on his cutter, the new weapon for Colomé is location of the fastball. It has made him more effective. Getting to this point is something that is appreciated by his manager. With Díaz down Monday, it is one part of his bullpen he does not have to worry about.

“It’s how serious he takes his job, how much he really is a team guy,” said Servais. “Every time it has been, ‘Whatever you need. I am here to help.’ And he is some kind of cool customer on the mound. He’s been really good and we trust him.”

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