2 Takes: What one fix for Mariners would make biggest difference?

Apr 23, 2023, 11:52 AM | Updated: 12:04 pm

Seattle Mariners Scott Servais...

Mariners manager Scott Servais makes a pitching change on April 12 in Chicago. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are still trying to end their slow start to 2023 as we near the end of the first month of the season, and there are a myriad of things to point to that have factored into their sub-.500 record entering Sunday.

Saturday: Hernández, Kelenic homer as Seattle Mariners beat Cards 5-4

On Friday’s edition of Bump and Stacy, host Stacy Rost and producer Curtis Rogers discussed those issues the M’s have encountered and asked a big question: If you could pick one thing for Seattle to turn around, what would make the biggest difference?

Here’s a look at what they each chose.

Curtis Rogers – A pitcher to set up Paul Sewald

Rogers focused on the bullpen, which was a strength of the Mariners in their back-to-back 90-win seasons but has struggled early on in 2023 due to two key injuries on Seattle’s pitching staff. First was starter Robbie Ray going down to a flexor strain, which meant Chris Flexen moved from a long relief role to the rotation, and next came shoulder soreness for Andrés Muñoz, who is perhaps the Mariners’ best reliever. That’s left manager Scott Servais with limited options to hand leads over to Paul Sewald.

“It is the bridge to Paul Sewald at the end of games,” Rogers answered. “Matt Brash, a lot was expected of him this season (but) he has not gotten off to the start that everybody had been hoping for. You’ve got other guys that have kind of struggled. Andrés Muñoz isn’t in there right now, he’s not available because he’s hurt. To me, if your identity is winning close ballgames, winning extra-inning games and just keeping it close so that you have given yourself a shot in the eighth and ninth inning, then your bullpen has to be one of the very best in baseball – and that’s what it’s been over the last couple of seasons with the Mariners. But right now, when they play that ‘Los Bomberos’ intro at games, it just doesn’t hit like it used to. It just doesn’t send shivers down my spine.”

Rogers made sure to point out that he doesn’t see this as a management issue and has more to do with Seattle being down some key bullpen arms.

“I don’t see too many instances of Scott Servais picking the wrong guy in the wrong situation, and look, injuries have kind of taken their toll,” he said. “I look back at that Cleveland series where the (April 9) game went into extra innings, and when you get into extra innings, these relievers are not multi-inning guys by any stretch of the imagination. Your multi-inning guy was supposed to be Chris Flexen, but obviously he had to get moved to the rotation. So in that one game it was J.B. Bukauskas (in extra innings) and he cost them the game. … I think Servais gets a pass for bullpen management right now just because it’s kind of a skeleton crew.”

Stacy Rost – Production from Kolten Wong

Rost went a direction that covered two areas of concern in one fell swoop. New second baseman Kolten Wong is off to a rough start with the Mariners after coming over in an offseason trade with Milwaukee, and that is both in terms of his bat and his glove. A two-time Gold Glove winner who had a career-high 15 home runs with a .770 OPS in 2022, Wong has scuffled to a .094/.197/.094 slash line for a .291 OPS in 17 games, with all five hits being singles.

“If you were to even just improve to where Kolten Wong is average or slightly above-average, that ends up doing a lot,” Rost said. “It doesn’t have to be peak Nelson Cruz coming in hitting bombs. It can just be someone who can get on base, occasionally drive in a run… but then also I want to add on his glove, too. When you look at defensive runs saved, they’ve had the most pain from that second base position. It’s the bat and the glove when it comes to Wong, and we know that he’s better than this. So he would be my one pick. If I could choose one area of improvement that I think would make the biggest impact just on its own, it would be at second, it would be Kolten Wong.”

Rogers added that the 32-year-old Wong has never performed as poorly in the big leagues as he has through the first three weeks of this season, so he doesn’t expect that to continue.

“I don’t think what we’ve seen from Kolten Wong is who he is,” Rogers said. “What we’ve seen from him over the season’s first 19 games is not a major league player, and I just I don’t see somebody going from what he was, where he was very consistent in terms of production throughout his career whether it was in St. Louis or Milwaukee, to now just falling completely off the Earth. I don’t know if that’s how it’s gonna be.”

Listen to the full conversation in the final segment of the podcast from the second hour of Friday’s Bump and Stacy below.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners Notebook: Moore’s setback, Haggerty and Muñoz nearing returns
Morosi thinks Mariners’ bats will ‘come around,’ DH woes are ‘fixable’
Panicking about Seattle Mariners? So are fans of other MLB contenders
Is change needed? Dipoto addresses Mariners’ hitting struggles
Where the Seattle Mariners could look if they decide to trade for a bat

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