What Dipoto said about Brash and Muñoz pitching 9th inning for Mariners

Aug 18, 2023, 9:33 AM

Seattle Mariners bullpen...

Matt Brash and Cal Raleigh of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a win on Aug. 16, 2023. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With the Seattle Mariners sending Paul Sewald to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline, Matt Brash and Andrés Muñoz are now seeing more time working the ninth inning.

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The Mariners initially were red hot after the deadline, winning eight straight, but a few rough outings from Brash and Muñoz late in games did play a role in Seattle dropping three straight between Saturday and Monday, as well as making wins on Tuesday and Wednesday a little more difficult.

The topic of Brash and Muñoz stepping into more of closer roles was discussed during this week’s Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports, and the Mariners president of baseball operations didn’t seem too concerned with those two relievers or the ninth inning moving forward.

“This is all new to Matt. This is an opportunity, a growth opportunity,” Dipoto said. “And I do think that you’ll get growing pains along the way, and that’s just part of the exercise.”

When discussing Muñoz, Dipoto said that the hard-throwing right-hander “has done this a little before,” but he did note that the Mariners for the last few years haven’t utilized a traditional closer who just works the ninth inning.

“For the majority of the time since Edwin Diaz left after the 2018 season, we have been pretty timeshare (in the ninth inning),” Dipoto said. “… We always picked the pockets to throw the pitchers in. And I think in (Muñoz’s) current situation, he’s getting more of those ninth-inning opportunities kind of flip-flopping with Matt Brash depending on who’s prepared.”

Over his last three appearances, Muñoz has allowed five runs, one of those being the “ghost runner” in extra innings. Dipoto said Muñoz has had “a rough week,” but that this is really the first bad stretch he’s had since joining the Mariners.

“So being too judgy in the early going, I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that he pitched in the ninth inning instead of the seventh or the eighth. He’s pitching against tough pockets while he’s trying to figure out where his stuff is at,” Dipoto said. “And (on Tuesday) when we put him in the game, we put him in a tough situation in asking him to get five outs. This is, again, a beaten-down bullpen that has really pitched a lot of high-leverage situations dating back to last Friday. So it’s been a tough stretch for him.”

Something else with Muñoz that was noticeable in Kansas City was his velocity was down a bit with his fastball and sinker when he pitched on Tuesday.

Dipoto shared his thoughts on that.

“The downtick in velo, over the weekend against Baltimore he was throwing 98-100 miles mph. But he did pitch multiple consecutive days and then again here, it’s multiple consecutive outings, and now it’s a five-out outing. And bouncing back after that, we’ve never really asked Andrés to do that outside of the two weeks leading into the postseason last year and then during the postseason,” Dipoto said. “And there’s a place and a time for that, but getting into that mode in the middle of August is tough. And when you’re playing multiple extra-inning games … that does put your high-leverage bullpen (guys) in a position to have to go out there tired. And (Muñoz is) out there tired.”

Listen to this week’s Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player near the top of this story. 

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