Drayer: Mariners’ Muñoz not worried about pitch clock upon return

Jun 9, 2023, 10:29 AM

Seattle Mariners Andres Munoz...

Andres Munoz of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Cleveland Guardians on April 2, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday in San Diego had a different feel than just about any inning pitched late in a Seattle Mariners game this season. Andrés Muñoz was back on the hill at full force. Sure, he had three outings at the beginning of the season, but there were still questions.

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“The start of the season felt like it was still spring training because I had only three outings,” he said after his restart. “I was ready, but I didn’t feel 100% ready.”

At that point, Muñoz was still refining his slider and struggling to get comfortable with the pitch clock, perhaps even a bigger issue as Muñoz was the Mariners’ slowest between pitches reliever in 2022 due in part to needing extra time for his right foot he has since had surgery on to settle down between pitches and, as he put it, to “try to get energy again to throw the next pitch.”

In San Diego, he took a different tack.

“To be honest, yesterday I wasn’t looking at the clock,” he said. “I just took my time. If they call a ball, it’s OK. I’m not going to put pressure on me to try to throw the pitch quicker. If they call a ball, they call it. That’s it. I just am going to try to do my best to take my time, don’t try to be quicker. I think that is an important thing for me, and everything will be good.”

For a pitcher that had one of the top strikeout and lower walk rates for a reliever in baseball last year, this makes sense. Unless it is a three-ball count, chances are good Muñoz will still get the out.

In retrospect, he is probably someone who didn’t need to worry about the pitch clock. It’s fun to think he is just that good that he can afford a stray ball here or there, but as it turns out, he’s not alone with the automatic ball and strike calls to date having very little impact on the games in which they were called.

Regardless, it was good to see Muñoz back on the hill being Muñoz. He can’t do anything to solve the Mariners’ offensive problems, but even with a bullpen that was ranked third in fWAR, there were times you missed having his shutdown ability. If runs are precious, he can help greatly in protecting them.

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