BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners Pitching Notebook: No WBC for Castillo, Gilbert and Kirby plans

Feb 1, 2023, 3:16 PM

Mariners Luis Castillo...

Mariners pitcher Luis Castillo walks off the field at the end of the sixth inning on Oct. 7, 2022. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The Mariners are inching closer and closer to reporting to Peoria, Ariz., and there were plenty of notable nuggets from the team’s annual pre-spring training media day, especially when it comes to the pitching side of things.

Mariners’ Scott Servais: High expectations of fans ‘a great thing’

New Mariners infielder Kolten Wong told reporters Wednesday multiple times that he was fired up about playing defense behind one of the game’s best pitching units.

“With that pitching staff, I think me and (shortstop J.P. Crawford) are really going to have some fun making plays behind those guys,” he said.

Here are some other takeaways from Wednesday on the state of Seattle’s pitching.

Luis Castillo won’t pitch in the WBC

This year’s spring training will be a bit different than usual due to the World Baseball Classic in March, and many Mariners are expected to suit up for various countries in the competition.

Someone who won’t be partaking in the tournament, however, is Luis Castillo, Seattle’s top starter who came to the Mariners in a blockbuster trade last July.

“Luis is not going to pitch in the WBC. He’s going to be in camp with us,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto told reporters. “It’s something that we are pleased with that he’ll be here, and it’s a choice we made together. I’m excited to see him from beginning to end.”

Castillo shined after the trade to the Mariners, especially in the playoffs, and signed a five-year extension last September.

 

Both Dipoto and manager Scott Servais stressed how important Castillo is to the Mariners.

“The way he changed our team, the way we felt walking out on the field … when you have that kind of presence, that kind of thump walking out on the mound, you can feel it,” Dipoto said. “… For one pitcher to change the vibe or the way people viewed your team the way Luis did at the deadline was pretty remarkable.”

“It is a benefit having him, certainly the guy at the top of your rotation (from the start of spring training),” Servais later said. “And we all saw the ability Luis has and the way that he can just change the game, take the mound and just dominate and take over the game. It helps your whole club. There’s a different vibe around your team, it certainly helps your bullpen on the day he’s going to pitch … He’s going to win a lot of games for us, there’s no question about that. Having him from Day 1, it’s different. We haven’t been around Luis in spring training before … I’m excited to have him for the full season.”

What about Matt Brash?

Earlier in the offseason, the plan for starter-turned-reliever Matt Brash was for him to report to spring training stretched out as a starter. But that later changed.

Dipoto confirmed Wednesday that Brash is indeed reporting as a reliever, in large part because he will he pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

“That was the agreement we made when he decided he wanted to pitch for Team Canada,” Dipoto said. “Our big thing with Brash is we don’t want to toggle him back and forth between the bullpen and rotation. We want him to be one or the other, and he was on board with the idea of coming in as a reliever and competing in that way where he was just awesome for us last year.”

Injury updates

The Mariners’ two best relievers last year – Andrés Muñoz and Paul Sewald – had offseason surgeries. For Muñoz, it was his foot, while Sewald got work done on his elbow.

How are those two progressing?

“Andrés Muñoz two weeks ago left his boot. He’s in a throwing program and progressing towards the mound, which should take place right about the time we get to Arizona,” Dipoto said. “Paul Sewald is multiple throwing sessions in now. He should be in a really good place when we get there. We anticipate both guys being ready to throw in games while we’re in Arizona, but we’ll forecast as we get there.”

Another arm to keep an eye on? Casey Sadler, who missed all of 2022 after a stellar 2021 season that saw him post a 0.67 ERA in 42 games. He was released this offseason but re-signed on a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp.

“I spent some time with Casey on Friday. He, too, among the players recovering from injury, is 100%. He’s ready to go, he’s throwing his bullpens,” Dipoto said. “Really excited to see what Casey looks like live again … He was such a big part of our 2021 team, and if we get that version of Casey Sadler with the bullpen group that we currently have, that just takes us to a different level.”

Dipoto added that Sadler returning could help Seattle’s bullpen after it dealt Erik Swanson to Toronto in the trade for slugger Teoscar Hernández.

“We’ll need something to replace the loss of Erik Swanson, who was a real contributor for us. Casey has a chance to do that. He’s done it before.”

The plan for younger arms

The Mariners will have three veterans in the rotation in Castillo, Robbie Ray and then one of Marco Gonzales or Chris Flexen. The other two members of that rotation are youngsters Logan Gilbert and George Kirby.

Kirby just completed his rookie campaign while Gilbert wrapped up his second MLB season and first full year in the big leagues.

Both Servais and Dipoto said that those two will be monitored closely after throwing so much last year, and they’ll ramp up differently than some other pitchers on the team.

“When everyone is ramping up to their two- and three-inning outings (in spring training), we’re still going to have Logan and George moving a little bit slower, just trying to hold the innings back in the spring to preserve them on the back end,” Dipoto said. “The goal is to make sure their five-inning outing happens just before the season begins to start.”

Servais said that Gilbert showed up last year throwing in the high-90s in his first spring training bullpen session. He doesn’t want that to be the case for Gilbert or Kirby this year. Servais also feels that duo learned a lot in 2023.

“Just how to manage the workload going through a full major league season and then pitching in the intensity level of the playoffs and what that takes and how to stay at that level,” Servais said. “… I think the big thing with these guys is we’ve seen it before, sometimes seasons can get away from you if you don’t stay healthy, certainly on the mound. Keeping those guys healthy – all these guys – starting pitching is so vital to having a chance to win every night … The 14-game win streak was awesome and we certainly had some come-from-behind wins, but it was driven by our starting pitching. We were in the game every night, and that’ll be the key for our season this year.”

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