Do Mariners have another Paul Sewald on their hands with Penn Murfee?

May 18, 2022, 12:01 PM
Mariners Penn Murfee...
Penn Murfee of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Mariners winning 90 games in 2021 wouldn’t have been possible if not for breakout stars in the bullpen.

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Three veterans who had never been anything close to go-to relievers – Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Casey Sadler – became absolute dominant forces for the Mariners, helping the team shorten games and become one of the league’s best in one-run games.

The bullpen hasn’t been as good this year, partly because Sadler is out for the year with a shoulder injury and Steckenrider has scuffled, but the team is seeing at least one fairly unknown reliever emerge as a surprise star for the team.

That would be Penn Murfee, the funky right-hander whose fastball averages 89.7 mph, per Statcast. Murfee, who made his MLB debut in April at 28 years old, has an interesting story as he was actually an infielder at college powerhouse Vanderbilt for three years – the first of which was a redshirt year – before transitioning to pitching. Murfee then transferred to Santa Clara before being taken in the 33rd round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Mariners.

Murfee split time between starting and relieving in the minors, but it appears he’s found a home as a reliever who can get outs and go multiple innings. In nine appearances for the Mariners, the rookie hurler has allowed just one run and nine total baserunners while striking out 15 over 11 1/3 innings. Murfee has already accumulated 0.4 WAR, which is tied for eighth on the M’s.

Former Mariners infielder and current ROOT Sports color commentator Mike Blowers has been very impressed with Murfee in his first taste of big league action.

“I’m intrigued by him also now that he’s been out there a number of times,” Blowers told Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Wyman and Bob Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before Murfee turned in yet another scoreless outing. “He’s punching people out.”

Blowers pointed to one of the Mariners’ top relievers when discussing what he’s been seeing from Murfee so far in 2022.

“It’s one of those things where I’m kind of watching him and I’m thinking, ‘Is this going to be Paul Sewald or something close to it?'” Blowers said. “Because his fastball is 89-90 mph and he has a slider (that makes) guys swing and miss.”

Blowers is looking forward to chatting with Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth about Murfee.

“With Penn, I want to know, ‘Is this something you guys saw in him? Has he made a change to something? Is it sustainable and will he continue to do that?'” Blowers said. “Because if he can, then you have somebody that can help you on the nights when the starter maybe goes five (innings). He can come out and pitch two in the sixth and seventh and keep you right there (in the game).”

Listen to the full discussion at this link or in the player below.

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Do Mariners have another Paul Sewald on their hands with Penn Murfee?