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Mariners Keynan Middleton
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Mariners add former Angels closer Keynan Middleton to bullpen

Keynan Middleton is the second former AL West closer added by the M's in as many days. (Getty)

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has made his second addition to Seattle’s bullpen in as many days, signing free-agent reliever Kenyan Middleton to a major league contract on Wednesday.

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Middleton, 27, was non-tendered by the Angels at the deadline earlier this month. He is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and not due to become a free agent until 2023.

The signing of Middleton comes a day after the M’s made a trade with Texas for Rafael Montero, who served as the Rangers’ closer in 2020.

The hard-throwing right-hander was selected by the Angels in the third round of the 2013 draft when Dipoto was general manager of the club. He was promoted to closer in 2018, posting an ERA of 2.04 with six saves in 16 games before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery.

Middleton returned in 2019 to pitch in 11 games, but while he had a 1.17 ERA, he struggled with command, walking seven batters while striking out six. In 2020, he went 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 appearances before being demoted to Los Angeles’ alternate site.

Though Middleton has struggled since his return from surgery, his velocity did return post-surgery with his fastball averaging 97.1 mph and his slider 87.4 mph last season.

Middleton will look to continue his return to form with the Mariners, and do so in a familiar place.

“I’m happy to come back home to the Pacific Northwest and play for the home team,” the lifetime Oregon resident said in a press release from the Mariners.

Middleton was born in Portland, Ore., attended high school in nearby Milwaukie, and was drafted out of Lane Community College in Eugene.

To make room for Middleton on a full 40-man roster, outfielder Philip Ervin has been designated for assignment. Ervin, 28, hit .205 in 18 games and 47 plate appearances after joining the Mariners as a waiver claim from Cincinnati last season, with three doubles and eight walks.

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