Mariners notebook: A new role for Danny Hultzen and Evan Scribner deal complete

Dec 8, 2015, 6:01 PM | Updated: Jan 15, 2016, 10:14 am

The Mariners need relievers and they may find one in-house. In his meeting with beat writers Tuesday afternoon at the baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., general manager Jerry Dipoto said that former number No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen will report to spring training as a reliever.

Hultzen’s comeback from labrum, capsule and rotator-cuff surgery hit a bump in the road last summer and he was shut down in late July. He is expected to report to spring training ready to pitch, and rather going with the original plan of keeping him in the starter role – which requires more pitching per outing but comes with a more structured routine – the Mariners will try him in relief.

“We’re going to try a new avenue and just see how it works,” Dipoto said, noting that they would be very cautious with the transition. “We are not going to ask him to bounce back four times a week, we are just going to find out if he can handle that type of duty.”

Dipoto is a huge fan of Hultzen, saying that he is a player that deserves to get the chance to pitch in the big leagues. Dipoto scouted him extensively with both the Angels and the Diamondbacks. Hultzen was actually selected by the Diamondbacks in the 2008 draft, eight picks after Wade Miley, but did not sign.

Hultzen showed good stuff in spring training last year but I wouldn’t expect him to be ready opening day. I would think they would want to take more time to get him accustomed to the routine but it is time that they will have as he cleared waivers last month and can be optioned to the minors. Hultzen could be a very interesting option in the bullpen if he can remain healthy.

Dipoto did add to the bullpen Tuesday, acquiring right-handed reliever Evan Scribner from Oakland in exchange for minor-league right-handed starter Trey Cochran-Gill.

“Evan brings us another experienced Major League reliever who has exhibited strong control of the strike zone as well as the ability to miss bats,” Dipoto said in the team’s press release. “He’ll compete for a spot in our Major League bullpen.”

Originally drafted and signed by the Diamondbacks in 2007 – when Tom Allison and Dipoto were both working in Arizona’s front office; are we seeing a pattern here? – he was traded to the Padres for Tony Clark in 2008 and claimed off waivers by the A’s in 2011. Last year he made 54 appearances for the Oakland, putting up a 4.35 ERA with a 4.33 FIP and 1.033 WHIP. He’s walked just four batters in the last two years (67 appearances), but led baseball in home runs surrendered by a reliever last year, and it should be noted that is playing primarily in the spacious American League West ballparks.

He will not be the only addition. Dipoto is looking for back-of-the-bullpen arms and exploring both trade and free-agent possibilities.

“We are going to build as much depth back there as we can,” he said, noting that it was possible he acquired a closer. “We know that (Joaquin) Benoit can handle the ninth inning, he also is dynamic in the eighth inning. That flexibility is a good thing. If it so happens we find a ninth-inning guy, we will go that route. If Joaquin winds up the ninth-inning guy we are building toward, that’s a possibility, too.”

Dipoto still needs to find a first baseman. We heard early in the day that there was expected to be plenty of competition for the services of Milwaukee’s Adam Lind.

Late Tuesday night, however, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Mariners and Brewers had made “substantial progress” on a deal. No word on who the Mariners would give up in return. In addition to Lind, the Mariners have also checked in on free agent Mike Napoli, who also should have a number of suitors with the Red Sox, Rangers and Indians among the names that he has been linked to.

Notes

• With Tuesday’s acquisition of Scribner, the Mariners’ 40-man roster is now full.

• Some good links if you missed them: Tom Verducci has a piece up on SI.com about the quickly-escalating reliever market. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe gives his view of the Mariners’ trade with the Red Sox

• Something you don’t see every day: the Mariners’ newest scouting hire is a woman. Greg Johns of MLB.com has the story.

• The Mariners have signed right-handed starter Donn Roach and outfielder Mike Baxter to minor-league deals.

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