Mariners notebook: Closer Steve Cishek proving valuable early on
So far, so good for the bounce-back season for Mariners closer Steve Cishek.
He has been near perfect, earning the save or the win in every game he has pitched in after his second appearance of the season. Tuesday night we saw something new, too. With the game on the line in the eighth inning and Rays first baseman Steve Pearce, who had already hit two home runs in the game, at the plate, Scott Servais called to the bullpen to bring Cishek in for the four-out save.
“It’s a tougher decision than people would think it is,” said Servais in his office Wednesday morning.
All closers are different and there is no formula or chart of situations of what to do. There are also no guarantees that the move will work. In most cases it’s akin to working without a net and, for that reason, quite often a nervous move for a skipper.
“Sometimes you have to look at matchups, what the other team has on the bench, where you are in the game, momentum,” said Servais. “There’s a lot of things that play into it, but also having a closer that has ability to do it. A lot of closers don’t want any part of it. I credit Steve for being open to it. He’s done a little bit of it in the past, he has no problem with it. It’s not something I would want to do on a regular basis.”
Something to weigh was the fact that Cishek had thrown two of the previous three days and had thrown 35 pitches Saturday in Houston. Putting him in the game Tuesday most likely meant not having him Wednesday. For Servais, the focus was and will be the game at hand.
“The importance of today’s win can not be overemphasized,” he said. “It’s huge at the big league level. I don’t think you just punt it and say we’ll get them tomorrow. We have an opportunity to win, that’s kind of how I look at it. Every win is so valuable, and everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s only May.’ They count as much in May as they do in September.”
There is a balance, however, and the pitcher himself factors into that. With veterans who know their arms and where they are at, it helps. It’s a long season and Servais acknowledged Cishek has thrown a lot of pitches. With the team winning there has been the need for a much larger number of saves than years past. As a result, Cishek has already thrown 18 1/3 innings, 5 1/3 more through 33 games than he has thrown the past three years.
One thing that should help with the workload is getting Joaquin Benoit back from the DL. He threw a bullpen this morning and is expected to make the next roadtrip.
Norichika Aoki, LF
Ketel Marte, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Seth Smith, RF
Adam Lind, 1B
Chris Iannetta, C
Leonys Martin, CF
Taijuan Walker, RHP
• Taijuan Walker is still trying working on his slider, which is behaving more like a cutter once he gets into games. I chatted with Walker about this prior to his start and the audio can be found here. Also of note, Walker got the phone number of Rays pitcher Chris Archer from Nathan Karns and plans to give him a call to get some pointers on throwing the slider.
• In addition to Benoit, Charlie Furbush threw a bullpen Wednesday morning, his fourth since being shut down in spring training. If all continues to go well the next step for him will be to throw to live hitters. That will happen in Tacoma, and then he will be sent to Arizona to start getting innings in preparation for return.
• James Paxton is starting Wednesday in Tacoma but will pitch just one inning. No, he is not being converted to reliever like Edwin Diaz is; rather they are limiting him to the solo inning to control his total innings.