Dipoto: Why Mariners moved Chris Flexen to bullpen, demoted Kyle Lewis

Aug 11, 2022, 11:02 AM | Updated: 11:11 am

Mariners Kyle Lewis...

Kyle Lewis looks on against the Los Angeles Angels at T-Mobile Park on August 06, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners took two of three from the New York Yankees to kick off this week and will have a slightly new-look roster when they take the field on Friday in Texas.

Prior to Wednesday’s win, the Mariners made four roster moves, most notably demoting 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis to Triple-A Tacoma. Additionally, manager Scott Servais announced that starting pitcher Chris Flexen will be a reliever going forward.

Mariners make 4 moves, including Lewis to Triple-A; Flexen now in bullpen

During his weekly visit with The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto explained the decision to move Flexen to the bullpen and send Lewis back to the minors.

Chris Flexen now a reliever

The Mariners have six healthy starting pitchers on the MLB roster, with Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales and rookie George Kirby sticking in the rotation while Flexen moves to the bullpen.

After Seattle acquired Castillo at the trade deadline, the question became what would happen to the rotation, and one option Dipoto floated was a “piggyback” situation where one of the six starters would be used on the same day as Kirby in order to help manage the rookie’s workload.

Instead, Flexen moves to the bullpen and Kirby will not have anyone piggybacking his outings.

So what went into that decision?

“Our thought process, we talked through it. Would we do a piggyback? Would we do a six-man rotation? Would we just send one of the starters to the bullpen and allow it to roll the way it was rolling? And most of what we’ve done is trying to make sure that we preserve the ability for our starting pitchers to impact the game,” Dipoto told Mike Salk. “And we talked a lot about George’s innings and more importantly, his stress level. And when we sat down and talked about it, and more importantly, when we asked George, he feels great. He’s not feeling the stress of the innings that he’s building up right now, and we’re just going to take it game by game and allow him to pitch, albeit on a pitch limit, which has always been the case.”

Dipoto said the Mariners will pitch Kirby every fifth game “until we see the stress starting to pile up” rather than trying to “minimize the value” of the starting pitchers on the roster.

“You want Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert and Marco (Gonzales), you want those guys out there,” Dipoto said. “And we thought that among the pitchers we had, the guy who would adapt best to a bullpen role because he’s done it more often in his career was Flex. And unsurprisingly, he was willing to jump into the bullpen and contribute. I think the answer we got from everyone we spoke with was ‘I just want to win,’ and that’s the answer we got from Chris.”

Kyle Lewis down to Triple-A

Lewis started the year on the injured list after tearing his meniscus last May. After returning to the lineup at the end of May, Lewis played just four games before suffering a concussion, which sidelined him for more than a month.

But Lewis really struggled upon his second return to the Mariners in 2022, hitting under .100 and striking out in nearly half of his at-bats. He also struck out in 10 of his final 13 at-bats before being optioned on Wednesday.

Dipoto explained the thought process behind sending the former Rookie of the Year down to Triple-A.

“I think you’re just seeing a lack of playing time and a lack of at-bats,” Dipoto said. “Kyle is incredibly talented. Obviously his career in general, and particularly this year, has been starts and stops. But he had been in a particularly deep funk with the bat, and we just feel like it’s best – especially at his age with the level of experience that he has – to go back (to the minors), to play regularly, to get his ABs and hopefully get the bat going, because we really do see impact in his bat potential, and we’ve seen it play out on a major league field.”

Additionally, the Mariners have a number of corner outfielders and DH-type players currently on the MLB roster.

“We’ve got (Mitch) Haniger, we do expect to get Julio (Rodriguez) back here very quickly, and the combination of Jesse Winker, Sam Haggerty, Dylan Moore, it just gives us a lot of ways to put a lineup out on the field, and this is a great time for us to take advantage of that depth by sending Kyle back just to get his bat going,” Dipoto said.

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

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