Dipoto: David Phelps’ torn UCL a ‘big loss’ for Mariners’ bullpen

Mar 21, 2018, 9:37 PM | Updated: 10:54 pm
The Mariners are down to two proven right-handed setup men with David Phelps injured. (AP)...
The Mariners are down to two proven right-handed setup men with David Phelps injured. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – And on the 32nd day of Mariners spring training, the injury bug bit hard. Four days later, the final diagnosis and the announcement was made regarding David Phelps: torn ulnar collateral ligament, Tommy John surgery to follow.

Just like that, a key setup arm for the Mariners is out for the season – and then some.

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“I feel terrible for David Phelps,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said, adding that Phelps seemed to be in good shape following surgery late last year to remove bone chips in his elbow. “He was really prepared (this spring) coming of the bone chip. He looked great. Physically his stuff was right where it needed to be, the last thing we were waiting for was the precision. Oddly enough, the last outing, when the precision joined the stuff is when he wound up hurting himself. It was pretty clear when he walked off the mound there was something wrong.”

On the last pitch he threw Saturday in the game against the Angels, a pitch that Chris Carter grounded to first to end the game, the ligament tore. Tests were administered that night, an MRI taken shortly after and then a second opinion sought.

“Today he got the results and decided this would be the way he would go. It was the only choice,” Dipoto said.

The bullpen that was projected to be a strength for this team is now short. They still have strong support in getting the ball to Edwin Diaz with Nick Vincent returning and the addition of Juan Nicasio, but the depth will be tested.

“It’s a big blow,” Dipoto said. “Fortunately for us we do have a good group down there. Fortunately for us a couple are having special spring trainings like Dan Altavilla and Casey Lawrence.”

Dipoto listed Chasen Bradford and Ryan Cook as possible in-house depth, as well as two players who cleared waivers earlier this spring, Mike Morin and Shawn Armstrong, and the newly acquired Erik Goeddel. Dipoto will no doubt also look outside the organization.

“Players are more accessible this time of the year,” he pointed out. “We will continue working to refill some of the depth in back of where we believe our major league team will be and I will anticipate seeing more of that in the days to come.”

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If it is a matter of rebuilding depth right now, then it is next man up for the relievers. If we see in Seattle the Dan Altavilla we have seen in Arizona, that would be a huge boost for the bullpen. The addition of Nicasio helps as he can give innings and wants the ball.

Any way you look at it, however, instead of three established right-handed setup men, the Mariners will have two and have to go to the depth right out of the gates. It is not how Dipoto drew things up.

“There is no way to sugar coat it,” Dipoto said. “It’s a big loss for us.”

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Dipoto: David Phelps’ torn UCL a ‘big loss’ for Mariners’ bullpen