Former Mariners pitcher analyzes bullpen for stretch run

Jul 6, 2024, 5:27 PM

Seattle Mariners reliever Gabe Speier...

Seattle Mariners pitcher Gabe Speier is among two key relievers the team hopes to get back soon. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Despite injuries to some key pieces, the bullpen has continued to be a bright spot for the Seattle Mariners.

How much will Gregory Santos’ arrival to bullpen help the Seattle Mariners?

Some reinforcements appear to be on the horizons as well, with right-hander Gregory Santos on a rehab assignment and left-hander Gabe Speier getting closer to starting one of his own. With those arms potentially joining the likes of Andrés Muñoz, Ryne Stanek and others, the Mariners seem set up to have a solid contingent of arms to close out games. But perhaps another arm is needed to truly push Seattle over the top in its pursuit of an American League West crown and deep postseason run.

The impact that those impending additions can make on the bullpen and if they’re enough to support a stretch run was a topic of conversation when former Mariners relief pitcher Charlie Furbush joined co-host Mike Lefko on Friday on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

“You have a guy like Santos coming back, just think of think of it in the sense of, if he’s going to do what he can do and continue to be that nasty pitcher and ultimately kind of fill in for (Matt) Brash, then this is arguably as dangerous of a bullpen as the rotation is,” Furbush said.

Giving credit where it’s due

Any talk about Seattle’s bullpen starts with the flamethrowing Muñoz, an All-Star candidate who has battled through back issues during another stellar season out of the back of the bullpen. Muñoz is 14 of 16 in save opportunities and has 1.54 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched. He’s allowed multiple runs only once in 35 appearances this season.

Additionally, late spring training signing Ryne Stanek has help stabilize the bullpen with a reliable veteran presence. Stanek has a 3.57 ERA and seven saves over 35 1/3 innings. He’s been especially strong of late, allowing just two runs in 11 2/3 innings since June 10, a stretch which includes three wins, three saves and three holds.

“They go ahead and get a guy named Ryne Stanek, and talk about a bright light out there in the bullpen,” Furbush said. “… I don’t have to say anything about Muñoz. I mean, Munoz is good enough and amazing enough closing games.”

With standout high-leverage arm Brash out for the season and Santos still yet to make his Marines debut, Seattle has gotten solid contributions from a number of less-heralded bullpen arms. Austin Voth, Trent Thornton and Tayler Saucedo have each had solid seasons and sport ERAs well below their career averages, including by more than one run for Washington natives Voth and Saucedo.

“The other guys are doing great down there and getting the job done and keeping that team in the game,” Furbush said. “The other arms are fantastic, and it can only add to the excitement of the bullpen.”

‘Sometimes you can’t avoid being tired’

Mariners relievers have thrown the least amount of innings in baseball this season due to the strength of the team’s starting rotation, which could certainly be helpful for bullpen down the stretch. Lefko recalled that Seattle’s bullpen appeared to start running out of gas late last season.

“I think last year towards the end it became obvious that this is a bullpen that was taxed,” Lefko said. “They were really drawing on any reserve they had left with Matt Brash having the most appearances of any reliever in baseball, with Andrés Muñoz having to come in and almost every single close situation. So that Santos return could be huge for all these guys that would only be even more effective when you put them in a situation like this where you get Voth and you get all these people who you don’t need every single day.”

Furbush has plenty of experience pitching out of the bullpen late in the season from his days as a Mariner. He said that late season wear and tear on the bullpen is ultimately part of the game pitchers have to battle through.

“There’s sometimes you can’t avoid being tired knowing that there may be a stretch where you got to go out and pitch four out of six games, and they may be high-leverage situations and you got to get it done,” he said. “That’s the nature of the bullpen, that you may be put in situations that you don’t foresee, but it’s one of those things that you’re gonna continually be relied on (to do). So if you can give a guy a break, maybe put him in a less-high-leverage situation, you can kind of mitigate some of that, but I do think getting these other guys back is only going to make the rest of the relievers more well-rested.”

“I would even argue getting another reliever just to take the workload off would not be a bad thing,” Furbush added.

Another arm would help Seattle Mariners

One of the old adages of baseball is that you can never have enough pitching. The Mariners have plenty of pitching, and even more certainly wouldn’t hurt.

“If you actually went out and got another high-leverage reliever, then you have like five arms down there that can absolutely dismantle lineups,” Furbush said. “It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. The pitching itself that we have is so good that, if you got one more (reliever or) even a starter for that matter, you would be even that much more efficient at what you’re doing.”

As Furbush pointed out, adding to the bullpen is generally one of the cheaper ways to upgrade at the trade deadline.

“You may be able to swing a deal even for a prospect that maybe isn’t that top-10 prospect (in the organization) that’s having a great year and do a quick little swap and pick up another Ryne Stanek (type), pick up someone else that’s having a great year, that throws really hard and has some lights out stuff,” Furbush said.

Listen to the full conversation with former Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Wyman and Bob weekdays from 2-6 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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• ‘Classic slump’: MLB insider diagnoses what’s wrong with Julio’s swing
• How much will Gregory Santos’ arrival to bullpen help the Mariners?
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