Dipoto: Where the Mariners’ pitching depth, rotation plan stands

Aug 24, 2023, 12:40 PM

Seattle Mariners Woo Woodworth...

Seattle Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth talks with Bryan Woo and Cal Raleigh. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have played themselves into playoff position, and their pitching deserves the lion’s share of credit.

The question now, however, is how well the depth of that pitching is holding up as the M’s go into the final 35 games of the regular season.

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Seattle was dealt a blow this week when rookie starter Emerson Hancock had to leave an outing in Houston after just two innings. Two days later, he was ruled out for a return this year, going on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. The good news is the Mariners received fellow rookie starter Bryan Woo back from an IL stint for right forearm inflammation on Tuesday, keeping the rotation full with five pitchers.

As things stand now, the rotation features All-Stars Luis Castillo and George Kirby, third-year standout Logan Gilbert, and impressive rookie Bryce Miller along with Woo.

How do the M’s feel about the state of their pitching? Seattle president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto shared his insight Thursday during his weekly show on Seattle Sports, and he said that while Hancock’s injury scuttled plans to go to a six-man rotation, the Mariners think they’ll be OK.

“Our most recent discussions, which were last night actually, we’re at a place on the schedule where the off days are going to start helping us,” Dipoto said. “… It might have been a different story had we had Emerson, but even when we were talking about a six-man, we were only talking about a six-man through the first week of September, which is when the schedule starts to give us a little bit of freedom. So it was one, maybe two more starts, and you might see something like a skipped start or a shorter start but not a traditional six-man rotation.”

Those smaller adjustments over the final month will likely be based around Woo. The 23-year-old right-hander has already thrown more innings this year for the Mariners (59) than he did all of last year (57) in the minors, which was his first year of pro baseball. He also threw 44 innings this season for Double-A Arkansas, meaning he’s closing in on doubling his workload from 2022.

“Obviously, the pitcher that we are most in-tune with trying to make sure we help across the the long season is Bryan Woo, just because he’s not done anything like it before,” Dipoto said. “So you might see a skipped start or some type of truncated start, but we’re gonna go with our five starters that are currently out there. We might get into a skipped-start situation, but we’re not going to disrupt the other guys. Let them continue to do the thing that they’re doing. … We’ve got another month and a half to play and our guys that have carried us are hopefully going to continue to carry it.”

Reinforcements for the M’s staff

While Seattle is mostly sticking with the five-man rotation, Dipoto’s front office still made an addition this week to help with depth in the form of veteran right-hander Luke Weaver. Perhaps best known to Mariners fans as the player who got into a National Anthem standoff with Robbie Ray last season in Kansas City, Weaver was actually on Seattle’s roster briefly during the offseason but ultimately was not tendered a contract for 2023. He came back to the M’s on Tuesday on a one-year MLB deal after being recently released by the Reds.

Dipoto said the need for depth following Hancock’s injury led to Seattle going a different direction than typically seen during the season to add an arm, but one that was necessary after the Aug. 1 trade deadline passed.

“It’s part of the reason why we quickly pivoted and picked up Luke Weaver when he was accessible to us,” Dipoto said. “We’re at a time in the baseball calendar where you don’t have a lot of access to players that don’t play in your own organization, so being in tune with the transaction wire and and what’s happening in the non-traditional markets – you know, waiver wires, it’s free agents, it’s players with outs (in their contracts). That’s where your depth’s coming from if it’s not from your own organization, but having lost Emerson, with no Robbie Ray, with no Marco Gonzales, already having tapped into Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo and then Emerson Hancock, there’s only so far you can go before you start to wobble a little bit. We left the house to go find a guy that we thought could help both in providing length in our bullpen and potentially stepping in if we needed a next depth starter.”

So far, so good with Weaver. He pitched two perfect innings in his Mariners debut Wednesday against the White Sox, striking out the first five hitters he faced.

As for other options for spot starts in the organization, the Mariners have a couple with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers who Dipoto pointed to. First is 36-year-old left-hander Tommy Milone, who has filled in admirably several times in situations like this for Seattle over the past two seasons. Second is 28-year-old righty Adam Oller, who started a combined 15 MLB games and appeared in 28 overall for Oakland in 2022 and 2023.

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. Listen to this week’s edition at this link or in the podcast player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Coach Manny Acta: Who leads Mariners behind the scenes?
Video: John Smoltz on how good the Seattle Mariners’ pitching is
Passan: Mariners should lock up Cal Raleigh next, but it won’t be easy
Passan: Mariners’ Julio currently ‘as good as a baseball player can be’
Drayer: How the Seattle Mariners turned into the AL’s hottest team

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Dipoto: Where the Mariners’ pitching depth, rotation plan stands