‘The time to strike’ is now for Seattle Mariners

Apr 5, 2024, 8:24 PM | Updated: Apr 7, 2024, 10:18 am

Seattle Mariners...

Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners during a 2024 game. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The first week of the 2024 MLB season was largely forgettable for the Seattle Mariners.

Why it may ‘take a little time’ for Seattle Mariners to change at the plate

Sloppy defense, uncharacteristically shaky pitching and continued problems with making contact made the first seven games of the Mariners’ season a tough watch. But it is still early. The team had 155 games remaining entering Friday, more than enough to make up for a 3-4 start.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern, which there’s been plenty of from the team’s fanbase. Former MLB pitcher and current Mariners analyst Ryan Rowland-Smith joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Thursday for a conversation about the team’s rough opening week.

“I don’t think anyone’s overreacting,” Rowland-Smith said. “Look, you can say it’s early all you want, but … obviously you’re entering into this phase of Mariners baseball where it’s like, ‘OK, we’re in a great window and that window is small, too. These players are gonna get expensive. This is the time to really hit on it.'”

Rowland-Smith compared this slow start with the team’s similar start in April last season. Despite high expectations, the Mariners lost three of their first four series last season, were 12-16 at the end of April and ultimately missed the playoffs by a single game.

“You need to win games,” Rowland-Smith continued. “You need to bank wins in the month of April if you are this team.”

One of the most important reasons for the Mariners to get off to a fast start this season is due to what’s going one with the other teams in AL West. The powerhouse Houston Astros entered Friday 2-5 and are without aging ace Justin Verlander. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has been out with shoulder soreness, but is expected to begin a rehab assignment Sunday, according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic.

The reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers are dealing with injury issues of their own. Ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is expected to miss at least the first half of the season as he recovers Tommy John surgery. Another Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, is currently out after offseason surgery on a herniated disc. Third baseman Josh Jung also recently hit the injured list and is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks after having surgery on his broken wrist.

“By the time the All-Star break comes around, by the time the trade deadline comes around, the Texas Rangers are gonna get DeGrom and Max Scherzer back,” Rowland-Smith said. “The Houston Astros are gonna get Justin Verlander back. … This is the time to strike.”

Rowland-Smith noted that Seattle starters needed to get deeper into games to avoid taxing a bullpen that’s already down Matt Brash and Gregory Santos. Mariners starters have gone six innings in just two of their first seven games.

One of the pitchers struggling early for Seattle is ace Luis Castillo. The hard-throwing right-hander has a 6.75 ERA and 1.781 WHIP over 10 2/3 innings during his first two starts. He didn’t finish the sixth inning in either, but this isn’t a new issue for Castillo. He’s traditionally been a slow starter with a career ERA of 4.07 ERA in March/April and 4.45 ERA in May.

“I’m not worried about him at all,” Rowland-Smith told Bump and Stacy. “You mentioned the fact that he gets off to a slow start. … He’s the ace of a really, really good staff, right? He’s really good under pressure. He carries that weight to be like the expectations are absolutely through the roof, and he has (stunk) before in Mariners uniform. He has looked bad. It’s short lived. It really is.”

Rowland-Smith pointed to a mid-May outing last season when Castillo allowed seven runs over five innings against the Boston Red Sox. It was the third rough outing in a row for Castillo.

“I remember him saying (he hit) rock bottom on that road trip in Boston last year,” Rowland-Smith said. “And I’m like ‘OK, Where’s this gonna go?’ And then the next couple starts, he came out and dominated because he’s just built that way. So, I’m not too worried about it.”

Listen to more of Bump and Stacy’s conversation with Ryan Rowland-Smith at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Bump and Stacy weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners struggle with new and similar problems in opening homestand
• Salk: Do Mariners need a different reaction to another slow start?
• Why a World Series winner is so bullish on Mariners this season
• Mariners adding depth with former Cy Young from division rival

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