Dipoto: How Mariners will manage their young pitchers’ workloads

Jun 15, 2023, 11:15 AM

Seattle Mariners Bryce Miller...

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Detroit Tigers on May 13, 2023. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

(Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are currently down two members of their opening day starting rotation in Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales, which has put more emphasis on the team’s young pitching.

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With the two veteran southpaws on the sideline, the Mariners have turned to rookies Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo to round out the rotation. Additionally, Seattle has two other younger starters taking the ball every five games in George Kirby and Logan Gilbert.

So what kind of management do the Mariners need to have with four youngsters anchoring the rotation? Jerry Dipoto, the team’s president of baseball operations, broke it down during his weekly Thursday morning visit with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

“With George and Logan, we’re not particularly concerned. They are built out and ready to throw their starts,” Dipoto said. “… They’re awesome. They’ve been consistent starters for us for most of the last two, or in Logan’s case three, seasons. We feel like they’re ready to carry the full load.”

With Miller and Woo, though, it’s a bit different.

“We’ll be a little bit more reserved with Bryce. We feel like he’s built out,” Dipoto said. “He did throw a full slate of innings last year in the minor leagues, but this will be his first chance at pitching for the full major league schedule where we do play the extra month. And there is an expectation of starting, in a lot of cases like he experienced already, on the fifth day of rest, which is the newest thing for all these kids.”

The minor leagues, Dipoto said, operate on a weekly schedule where teams play week-long series and Monday is the standard off day. That can make pitching development a bit tricky.

“I think it’s wonderful for quality of life, but it’s probably not ideal in developing pitchers to throw on five days rest. It’s just a little bit wonky,” Dipoto said. “And that’s one thing we’re trying to remain aware of with Bryce.”

Miller had a full 2022 season of pitching under his belt after throwing a lot in college, but that’s not the case for Woo. The young right-hander threw just 69 1/3 innings over three seasons at Cal Poly, with his college career ending early in 2021 due to Tommy John surgery. A sixth-round pick by Seattle in the 2021 MLB Draft, Woo threw 101 minor league innings between 2022 and 2023 before making his MLB debut two weeks ago in Texas.

“With Bryan Woo, we’re in an entirely different category,” Dipoto said. “Woo has not developed the kind of innings totals or consistency with taking the ball over long season starts. He has had arm issues in his past, so we’re going to be very cautious in how we manage that over time. For the time being, because it’s still relatively early in the season, we’re going to let his physical, I guess, crispness tell us which way to go next. We will be more, I guess, antenna up on what’s happening with Woo and any fatigue levels we see, and we will be more inclined to skip starts to move him around in a rotation to try to manage innings because we don’t want to pile it up.”

When could Seattle Mariners’ Marco Gonzales return?

Ray is done for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but Gonzales is working back from a forearm strain that won’t end his season.

So when could he return to the Mariners? According to Dipoto, he’s still a bit of a ways off.

“As far as I understand, he’s set to start his throwing program sometime next week if all goes well. We have no real timeline on his return. I would still anticipate … it’s gonna be at least a month,” Dipoto said. “… We have to go through a progression to get him back to a mound. (A month) was the minimum requirement, and on the maximum, we’re going to let his body tell us. When he gets out and starts playing catch off the mound, like I said, hopefully sometime in the next week, we’ll have a better idea of what that looks like. But beyond that, we don’t really have an expectation of when he might be back.”

Wednesday: Sánchez makes game-saving catch, Marlins top Seattle Mariners 4-1

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