SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners Notebook: Thoughts on offense, more from the road

Apr 8, 2024, 12:51 AM | Updated: 4:22 pm

Seattle Mariners Collin Snider...

Collin Snider of the Seattle Mariners after taking a line drive off his knee on April07, 2024 in Milwaukee. (John Fisher/Getty Images)

(John Fisher/Getty Images)

A position player on the mound a second time in the first 10 games is not something you ever want to see, but there was Seattle Mariners third baseman Josh Rojas on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee making his second appearance on the mound for team this season.

Related: Seattle Mariners’ Rojas tests limits with impossibly slow pitch

With just one out in the fourth inning and the Brewers leading 8-2, starting pitcher Emerson Hancock was lifted from the game after 88 pitches. And with multiple arms in the bullpen that manager Scott Servais needed to stay away from, Rojas probably had a good idea where he would end the game, which Seattle lost 12-4.

It was clearly not Hancock’s day, with a couple of questionable plays behind him and questionable calls in front of him from the home plate umpire, but the main culprits were the Brewers’ hitters, who for a second time in the series showed impressive ability to stick to an approach. The first was Friday night in the ninth inning, refusing to swing until Andrés Muñoz showed he could throw a strike. On Sunday, they were able to get Hancock up in the zone by laying off his his best weapons, a two-seam fastball and changeup, when they saw them low in the zone.

“You have got to credit the Brewers,” Servais said after the game, noting Hancock is young and learning. “They were some kind of disciplined this whole series. I’m really impressed. They have a young team, they did not chase. There were a number of edge pitches in this series the Brewers just didn’t swing at.”

It’s an approach Servais and coaches have been emphasizing with their own hitters for some time now. Lay off the edge pitches you can’t do much with, and you could be rewarded with better pitches to hit – as the Brewers were – or by getting ahead in the count should the edge pitch travel out of the zone and is called a ball.

The fact that the Brewers were doing what the Mariners should be doing did not get by Servais.

“It is something you pride yourself in when you have a group that is buying in like that,” he said. “We haven’t been there – yet. We certainly have the capability of doing that but you have to be very disciplined in buying into an approach. They did it today and we weren’t able to do it.”

Nobody was more aware of the situation than Hancock, who acknowledged he didn’t make the adjustments needed to keep runs off the board and stay in the game. As it was an effective approach against him on Sunday, Hancock will likely see it again and have to adjust.

Pitching moves ahead for Seattle Mariners?

Update 1:47 p.m.: The Mariners made a flurry of roster moves that included the pitching staff. Click here for details.

Reliever Collin Snider, who replaced Hancock in Sunday’s game, was hit by a 102 mph comebacker and suffered a contusion on his left kneecap. There was no word Sunday night if an injured list stay would be required. Considering the bullpen was already short heading into Sunday’s game with a couple of smaller issues, the Mariners are very likely to call at least one reliever from the minors to Toronto, where they begin a three-game series Monday, to be on hand on the taxi squad should they need to make a move.

Tyson Miller, who impressed in spring training and has made four appearances for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, would seem to be most likely to get the nod. The move would be doable as the Mariners have two open spots on the 40-man roster.

A second arm could be brought in, as well, if the Mariners make the decision to skip Hancock in the next turn of the rotation. A day off this Thursday would allow the first four pitchers in the rotation to start on normal rest until a fifth would be needed again on Tuesday, April 16 against Cincinnati. If the team needs to protect the bullpen arms, and an additional reliever would give them the opportunity to get a few extra days to get through some dings and dents without having to place a reliever on the IL, then perhaps it’s an easy call.

It becomes a more interesting call if it is about Hancock. Is this a situation where they want to get him back on the horse again after a tough outing, or has it been determined there are things he needs to continue to work on? The velocity that impressed early in spring training has not been there. Hancock showed a 97 mph two-seamer and 90 mph changeup when he first reported and in his first spring start, but he averaged 92.9 mph on the two-seamer and 87.3 mph with the change Sunday – both slightly up from his first start on April 1.

By the time the Mariners need a fifth starter again, could Bryan Woo be ready? Seattle’s planned No. 5 arm for this season, Woo was shut down after a March 23 throwing session and began the year on the IL with elbow inflammation, but he resumed throwing last Tuesday. If all is well, he shouldn’t take long to build back up as he was only down nine days and otherwise had a full spring training. As it is the beginning of his season, however, the Mariners will want him fully ready.

If Woo can’t make that start, there is an open 40-man spot and others available. Newly signed left-hander Dallas Keuchel, a 12-year veteran and former Cy Young Award winner, threw five scoreless innings in his debut with the Rainiers on Sunday afternoon. Levi Stoudt also had a strong outing this week, and Casey Lawrence and Jhonathan Diaz could also be candidates for a spot start.

Notes

• If you are looking for a bright spot from the game Sunday, Dominic Canzone recorded the top two exit velocities of the game: a 109.8 mph single in the third inning and a 107.9 mph home run in the ninth. At 428 feet, the home run was also the top distance for a ball in play in the game.

• There will be a little bit of extra in Toronto – and according to city officials, extra on hand as people are coming to the city for the Blue Jays’ home opener Monday, a Maple Leafs game, and to (safely) view the solar eclipse. Toronto is not quite in the path of totality but darn close with the city expected to see partial totality at more than 90 percent.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Watch: Jorge Polanco slugs upper-deck shot for his first M’s homer
Ryan Rowland-Smith: ‘Time to strike’ is now for Seattle Mariners
Why it may ‘take a little time’ for Mariners’ changes at the plate
Salk: Do Mariners need a different reaction to another slow start?
Seattle Mariners’ problem versus spin unlikely to go away soon

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