Rowland-Smith: Why Mariners’ Logan Gilbert could ‘go off’ this season

Feb 2, 2022, 1:52 PM | Updated: 2:06 pm

Mariners Logan Gilbert...

Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners pitches in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at T-Mobile Park. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Mariners made a massive splash shortly before the lockout hit, inking reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray to a lucrative multi-year contract. But Ray may not be the only reason that Seattle’s starting rotation takes a big step forward in 2022.

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Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen were both solid and reliable starters for the Mariners in 2021, and Ray figures to anchor the rotation as its ace in 2022, but former Mariners southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith is looking forward to seeing a young hurler take the next step in his MLB career.

“I think Logan Gilbert’s going to go off this year, I really do,” said Rowland-Smith, now a Mariners analyst on ROOT Sports and the M’s Radio Network, to Shannon Drayer and James “Boy Howdy” Osborn during Tuesday’s edition of the Hot Stove on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Gilbert, 24, made his MLB debut in May of last year and helped stabilize Seattle’s rotation during his rookie season. All in all, Gilbert went 6-5 with a 4.68 ERA and 128 strikeouts to 28 walks in 24 starts over 119 1/3 innings. The rookie did so while leaning heavily on his fastball, a pitch he used 61% of the time, per Statcast.

Rowland-Smith saw something in Gilbert last year that makes him very bullish on the 2018 first-round pick in 2022.

“I think with Logan Gilbert, he comes up, he’s got a little success under his belt and he gets on a roll. And all of a sudden Pete Woodworth, the (Mariners) pitching coach, said, ‘Listen, we’re identifying something with your secondary stuff that we have to fix now.’ And he started to struggle and everybody’s like, ‘What happened to Logan Gilbert?'” Rowland-Smith said. “Well, he was working through something. And in talking to Pete and talking about the things that were going to be a long-term benefit, one of those things was speeding up that slider.”

Gilbert entered the big leagues with a reputation of being a four-pitch pitcher with secondary offerings of a slider, curveball and changeup. As noted, he used those three pitches sparingly as a rookie as he struggled to find consistency with them, but Rowland-Smith thinks Gilbert finding the slider late in the season could be big going forward.

“The reason why (that’s important) is because everything’s coming out of that same tunnel at the same arm speed,” he said. “… You cannot live in a situation where you throw three different pitches with three different arm slots or three different arm speeds. Hitters will just catch up to that and that scouting report just grows and grows the longer you’re in the big leagues.”

And with Gilbert throwing his slider differently than he did early in his MLB career, he “sort of morphed into the old version and the new version,” Rowland-Smith said.

“You could see towards the end (of the season) with Logan Gilbert, he just had that presence that he had when he first came up, that comfort level, and that’s something he could just take right into the offseason,” Rowland-Smith said. ” … I just think, man, sky’s the limit for him. I just think there’s going to be this level of consistency with him coming in 2022 that was kind of missing a little bit last year. And when you get that, he’s gonna just go absolutely off.”

Listen to the full conversation with Rowland-Smith in the podcast of this week’s Hot Stove at this link or in the player below.

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Rowland-Smith: Why Mariners’ Logan Gilbert could ‘go off’ this season