Mauricio Robles, Reliever?

I glossed right over it in the article, but as reader eknpdx noticed, Jack Zduriencik may have hinted strongly at an upcoming development over at Pravda.com:

... Zduriencik sounds fairly solid on his current bullpen.

"I think we'll give some of our young guys an opportunity to see what they can do," he said. "Last year at the end, we had [Dan] Cortes who did some impressive things. We like Anthony Varvaro and Josh Lueke and we'll see what [Mauricio] Robles does.

Dan Cortes is a reliever. Anthony Varvaro is a reliever. Josh Lueke is a reliever. Mauricio Robles started 27 games last season, but the context in which he's mentioned is interesting, and Z seems to be implying that he sees Robles as a reliever, and that he sees him as a reliever right now.

Now, this is speculation on my part. And even if Robles were to, say, break into the bigs as a reliever, that wouldn't prevent him from starting again down the road. But I feel like the message here is pretty clear, and it wouldn't come as much of a surprise, given how many people have been pegging Robles as a future bullpen arm since he arrived. His command just isn't very good, his repertoire is limited, and he's accordingly had problems working deep into games.

What's somewhat troubling is that Robles averages well over a strikeout an inning, and only turns 22 next March. A lot of people would like to see him keep trying to work things out in the rotation, since a good starter is more valuable than a good reliever. As we learned with Phillippe Aumont, though, when this front office is convinced, it's convinced, no matter the guy's age. If the Mariners truly see Robles as a short-inning power arm, then they'll act on that belief.

The good news is that, as a reliever, Robles could arrive quickly, and he'd offer a power lefty arm to a team that's currently looking at Ryan Rowland-Smith, Garrett Olson, Luke French, and Cesar Jimenez as its best southpaw options. One could expect Robles' fastball to regularly reach the mid- to high-90s, and the inconsistency of his secondary stuff could be mitigated in short appearances. Robles has the potential to be dominant, and he has the potential to be dominant soon.

So that's something to watch. It's only November and there's a lot of time between now and baseball, but for as bad as the Mariner bullpen was in 2010, it could be laden with ability and potential in 2011, with power arms like Brandon League, Cortes, Lueke, and Robles possibly hanging around, not to mention David Aardsma in the unlikely event that he doesn't get traded. There would be walks - so, so many walks - but there would also be fastballs and strikeouts, and the relievers could very well end up being the most entertaining part of the team.

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