So as you may have heard from somebody else by now, earlier today the Mariners signed Brian Falkenborg to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite. If the name sounds familiar, it's because this isn't Falkenborg's first go-round with the organization - he was Mariner property from 2001 through 2003, spending a lot of time in Tacoma before moving elsewhere. Most recently he was pitching in Japan, but his season was plagued by injuries and some way or another he wound up back here.
It's hardly an earth-shattering move, and I can't blame you if you're not getting ready to stencil "FALKENBORG" onto the back of a t-shirt, but before you write him off as just another nobody, I think it's worth giving him a chance. Save for a couple roles, the bullpen's basically an open competition at this point, and Falkenborg's stuff matches up pretty well with anyone else's. Where he used to sit in the low-90s, two years ago he was able to pull himself up into the 94-97 range, and along with that he's got a heavy curve and a sharp splitter that he claims to have improved with Fukuoka. That's a solid repertoire, and even better is that all three of his pitches work against both left-handed and right-handed batters. In other words, in any given at bat, Falkenborg can come after a batter with three different quality(?) pitches. That's not very common for a reliever, and I think it gives Falkenborg the potential to really shine.
Who knows. Falkenborg's never really stood out, and after a series of leg injuries last year, it's difficult to say what kind of shape he's in. But if he's healthy, he has some of the best stuff of anyone competing for a job, and given a 10-20% improvement in command, there's no telling what he could do. It wouldn't be the first time we had a hard-throwing righty come out of nowhere to succeed in relief. So keep him in the back of your mind. While he might currently be on the outside looking in, in the worst case, there's nothing wrong with adding another body, and in the best case, he may just surprise you.