Mike Blowers encouraged by added velocity in Mariners bullpen

Feb 26, 2017, 5:39 AM | Updated: Feb 27, 2017, 10:53 am
Dan Altavilla is one of several Mariners relievers who can throw in the upper 90s. (AP)...
Dan Altavilla is one of several Mariners relievers who can throw in the upper 90s. (AP)
LISTEN: ROOT Sports' Mike Blowers on what he's looking for from the Mariners

Bullpens are notoriously hard to evaluate in spring training and project for the regular season, but one thing that is never hard to interpret is good, old-fashioned velocity. That was something that ROOT Sports analyst and former Mariners third baseman Mike Blowers said was lacking a year ago for the Mariners but appears to have been addressed by general manager Jerry Dipoto over the course of last season and throughout the offseason.

“Even in spring training, they just didn’t have enough guys out there to make you swing and miss (last year),” Blowers told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton. “The velocity was not there. They were veteran guys, they were guys that had done their job for a long time, but they weren’t guys that were going to strike people out and get you out of tough situations, and I think that Jerry’s obviously made an adjustment with that. … When you look at the guys that (Dipoto) brought up midseason and the power arms that he put out there, you can see what an impact that is.”

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The most obvious impact came from Edwin Diaz, a young fireballer who skipped Triple-A to join the Mariners around midseason and before long had established himself as the closer. But Dipoto didn’t stop there, adding through trades more youthful arms with serious velocity like James Pazos and Shae Simmons to a stable of prospects that already included Dan Altavilla and Thyago Vieira.

Blowers said that when it comes to relievers who can throw smoke, it leaves just one question: Can they command the strike zone?

“A lot of these young kids that really have strong arms, can they command the strike zone is typically the biggest thing. If they can do that, they can have an impact on this team,” he said. “If you have guys that can rush it up there at 95, 96 mph and command the strike zone, they will have an impact on your club over the course of the season, and I think they have that. That’s such a huge thing.”

And the reason why that’s such an important part of the game these days is how the use of bullpen seems to be shifting. The MLB got a good, long look at that in the 2016 World Series, when hard-throwing southpaws Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Andrew Miller (Indians) were used all over the place and not just in the usual closer role that’s normally reserved for a team’s best reliever.

“I think with this group that Jerry has put together, he made an adjustment midseason last year and he continued to build on that with the power arms that he has out there, and you have to have that,” Blowers said.

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