Andrés Muñoz already dominant for Mariners and has new weapon

Mar 30, 2024, 2:11 PM

Seattle Mariners Andres Munoz...

Andres Munoz of the Seattle Mariners reacts to getting the save on March 29, 2024. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Andrés Muñoz is the Seattle Mariners’ best reliever, and his importance to the team is amplified right now with fellow leverage arms Matt Brash and Gregory Santos starting the season on the injured list.

Veteran reliever Ryne Stanek, who signed with the Mariners late in spring training, didn’t have his best command in his Seattle debut, and Muñoz had to enter the game early on Friday with two outs and runners on the corners in the eighth inning.

Muñoz got a groundout to keep the Boston Red Sox off the board in the eighth, and then he struck out the side in order in the ninth to preserve a 1-0 Mariners win. It was just Muñoz’s second four-out save of his young career.

Did he expect to get four outs in his first outing of 2024?

“I didn’t,” he told reporters with a laugh on Friday. “I didn’t, no. You just go out there and attack hitters. It doesn’t matter what inning it is. Like I always say, I’m going to give my 100% no matter what inning they put me in. It just felt good to help the team win.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais lauded Muñoz for coming into spring training in such great shape this year, which allowed him to be ready for the extra work right off the bat.

That wasn’t the case in 2023 because Muñoz had offseason ankle surgery and was further behind the other relievers. That’s completely flipped in 2024.

“Muni came into spring training in great shape. He was ready to go from the get go and he’s probably been the farthest along have any of our relief pitchers … So from the get go, he has looked really good,” Servais said.

The hard-throwing right-hander threw more fastballs on Friday than he usually does, and Servais was a big fan of his two-seamer.

But Muñoz also showcased something a bit different on Friday that you may have noticed.

“He’s also changed up the tempo in his delivery as you’ll see. Some of them he’ll lift the leg up and other times he’ll slide step to the plate,” Servais noted.

That slide step was used even without runners on base, which is very different for Muñoz. It was on display in the first and second outs of his appearance, which you can see in the video near the top of this post.

“You throw 100 mph with that kind of movement, that kind of slider and then you can screw up the hitter’s timing? It is special,” Servais said. “It’s something he’s worked on in spring training, he took it into the first game tonight and I’m super excited that he was able to have the dominance he had tonight with doing that. It makes it really hard. It’s hard to hit him when he’s just got the normal leg kick. Now you mix up the difference in timing, again, it’s really going to help him throughout the season.”

Muñoz told reporters that the slide step initially was because he was too slow to the plate when runners were on base. That made it easier for baserunners to try and steal second.

“So I started doing it with somebody on base. And we started looking at the rhythm of the hitters, so sometimes we can do it. And I started doing it when nobody on base and that’s it,” he said. “I just started doing it.”

Does he think it messes with hitters?

“Yes, with the timing,” he said with a laugh.

More Seattle Mariners coverage

• Kirby shines, Crawford homers in Mariners’ 1-0 win over Red Sox
• What’s the next step for Seattle Mariners’ George Kirby in 2024?
• Is the Mariners’ defense going to be a big concern this year?
• Mariners Highs and Lows: What stands out from opening day loss
• Welcome Back: Mitch Haniger blasts homer in Mariners return

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