MLB veteran O’Flaherty: Why Mariners’ latest trade acquisition should benefit from change of scenery

May 22, 2019, 3:42 PM | Updated: 8:07 pm

Eric O’Flaherty has been around Major League Baseball since 2006, and as a former relief pitcher with the Mariners, Braves, Athletics and Mets, the Walla Walla native has experienced just about everything – including something a new member on the Mariners roster is going through.

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Like O’Flaherty, Jesse Biddle is a left-handed reliever. And similar to when the Mariners put O’Flaherty on waivers following a sub-par 2008 season, Biddle was struggling with the Braves and found himself traded out of town.

O’Flaherty actually wound up in Atlanta that year, a move he said changed his career. And he thinks the 27-year-old Biddle, a 2010 first-round draft pick who didn’t make his MLB debut until last season, has a chance to do the same in Seattle.

“This will be a great fresh start for him,” O’Flaherty said Wednesday about Biddle during an in-studio interview on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk. “Maybe he can figure out what’s been causing him control problems in Atlanta. Come over here, fresh start, big opportunity – you never know.”

The biggest benefits Biddle will have going for him in Seattle is a chance to play with less pressure and no history with the team.

“There’s no better organization to be in right now to get an opportunity,” O’Flaherty said of the rebuilding Mariners. “… Biddle could come into a game in Atlanta and throw two balls and (there would be) that ‘Here we go again’ mindset from everybody around him. You kinda absorb that energy whether you like to admit it or not. It’s extra pressure; it can really wear on you.

“(And) they’re trying to win the division in the AL East. You come over here, there’s a little more room for error, everybody’s happy to see you, and anytime you go to a new organization, they focus on all your positives. They’re not tired of you yet. ‘So, you throw 94, 95 mph left-handed? That’s awesome.’ They don’t know you walked six per nine (innings), they haven’t sat through you doing it.”

That was the experience O’Flaherty had when he joined the Braves for the 2009 season, which was the start of the biggest sustained success of his career as part of a dominant Atlanta bullpen that later featured the likes of Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.

“This was the great thing about me going over to Atlanta. I stunk over here in ’08, I went over to Atlanta, and my agent told me, ‘Hey, (former Braves manager) Bobby Cox just wants you to throw strikes. I can do that. … I got to June of that year and I had one walk.

“Just having a whole new mindset, being treated different, everybody looking at you in a positive light, it changed my career.”

By the way, Biddle made his Mariners debut on Wednesday, registering one strikeout and combining with fellow new Seattle reliever Anthony Bass on a scoreless eighth inning.

O’Flaherty spent the entire 9 o’clock hour in studio with Brock and Salk, and the trio discussed a number of topics about the Mariners through the lens of O’Flaherty’s perspective as an MLB veteran. You can watch the first 24 minutes of their conversation in the video attached in this post, or listen to the full hour in this podcast.

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