Last September, after Tacoma was finished whooping PCL ass, the Dan Cortes came up. Justin Smoak came up. Mike Carp came up. Greg Halman came up. Matt Mangini came up. Anthony Varvaro came up. Michael Pineda came up, albeit in a non-roster fashion. Josh Lueke stayed put. We wondered.called a bunch of guys up to the bigs.
Last October, after the season was finished, Howard Lincoln and Jack Zduriencik sent out letters to the fans expressing their disappointment, asking for patience, and highlighting the good, even underneath all the bad. Zduriencik talked about the organization's long-term plan of developing from within and named a bunch of the team's best and most interesting prospects. He even discussed the specific category of "hard-throwing pitchers", but neglected to mention Josh Lueke. We wondered.
A few weeks ago, in talking about the Mariners' bullpen depth with Greg Johns, Zduriencik acknowledged Josh Lueke, saying that he likes him while running down some of the various young candidates. This was a new development, and we wondered.
"We are very pleased with the return in the trade as all four players should be contributors to our current Major League club at present and in our very near future...We view Smoak as a middle-of-the-lineup bat and Lueke as a late-inning guy. Both should be with us in 2011."
Of course, Zduriencik was put in a difficult position, as he was asked about the Lee trade specifically and therefore had to talk about the players he got back. But - has anyone ever asked you if you think before you talk? No one's ever asked that question of Jack Zduriencik. Zduriencik chooses his words as carefully as any executive in the game and is always aware of the message he's sending. And the message he's sending here is a pretty strong one - that Josh Lueke should be a Seattle Mariner during the 2011 season. He could've opted to say something softer. He didn't.
One thing that means is that, as of now, we can probably count on seeing Lueke's fastball and slider in the bullpen sometime soon. This is a guy who flat-out dominated in AA before getting bumped and pitching well in Tacoma. If he's not ready now, he's close, and he stands a chance of making the later innings feel a lot more secure.
The other thing that means is that we'll all probably have to deal with something we'd prefer not to have to deal with. Josh Lueke's history is always going to be there under the surface, and while reactions won't remain as extreme as they'll be in his debut, there'll always be differences of opinion and people who feel very strongly. There'll always be some degree of ugliness. I know we're going to end up with some lousy threads right here, but this won't just be an issue online. It'll be everywhere. It isn't a secret.
One has to imagine that the Mariners spent a great deal of time weighing the Josh Lueke positives and the Josh Lueke negatives. It would appear now that they've decided the upside should be bigger than the downside. It shouldn't be long before we see if they're right.