We’d heard rumblings earlier this week that the Mariners might break camp carrying eight relievers in 2017. That was confirmed this morning by the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton:
#Mariners will break with an eight-man bullpen, manager Scott Servais confirms.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) March 26, 2017
Not a huge surprise. What came just minutes later shocked some, myself included.
Mariners have optioned Chris Heston to Tacoma and assigned Cody Martin, Jean Machi and Nick Hagadone to minor league camp.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 26, 2017
The position battle for the second lefty out in the Mariners bullpen seemed like it was down to just local boy Nick Hagadone, Dean Kiekhefer, and James Pazos after Ariel Miranda was optioned to minor league camp yesterday to be stretched out as a starter. Despite being a non-roster invite this spring, Hagadone was starting to emerge as the apparent favorite for the role:
Obviously roster spots aren’t solely decided off of spring training stat lines, but the argument could easily be made that Pazos posted the least impressive stat line of the bunch vying for a big league role. Hagadone is also the only one of the three who’s managed to post a scoreless multi-inning appearance this spring, blanking the Rangers over two innings a week ago. Being available to pitch more than one inning could prove to be valuable to a bullpen whose other lefty should be used exclusively as a LOOGY. One small advantage Pazos has over Haggy and Kiekhefer is that he’s currently on the 40-man roster unlike the other two, who’d require a player being placed on waivers in order to add them to the 40-man.
It seems worthy to note that all of the damage done to Pazos (or maybe by Pazos would be more appropriate) took place in two games where he combined to post: 3.2 innings pitched, 7 hits, and 7 runs (6 earned), the most recent blowup taking place in his most recent appearance. Despite his spring struggles, Pazos possesses velocity unmatched by any other lefty candidate, which no doubt played a role in his apparent winning of the job. Best case scenario, Pazos reels in his control of the strike zone and emerges as one of the game’s dominant lefty relievers. Worst case scenario, Pazos has a blow up or two early in the season and is replaced with Hagadone or Kiekhefer. You could probably swap any of these three out for one another without it having a super significant impact on the team.
In other news, sending rotation hopefuls Chris Heston and Cody Martin as well as righty reliever Jean Machi to minor league camp came as a surprise to no one. Despite pitching well early in camp, Heston figured to have the odds stacked against him and probably really only had a shot at cracking the big league roster if a member of the starting pitching rotation got injured. Martin also started spring on a strong note, racking up 13 strikeouts in 9.2 scoreless innings to start spring training before getting touched up by the Angels for six runs in his most recent outing. Machi, who arrived to camp late, pitched okay, while unimpressive this spring, and finds himself in a category of organizational depth that can be summed up only by this Drake album cover:
Divish went on to tweet the following:
Six of the eight are likely: Diaz, Altavilla, Vincent, Scribner, Fien and Rzepczynksi.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 26, 2017
Assuming one of the two remaining spots goes to Pazos, and the organization plans to start Tony Zych in the minors, it seems the team is optimistic Shae Simmons will be ready by Opening Day, or Jerry Dipoto is gearing up to go dumpster diving on the waiver wire once a few other teams have made their final cuts. I find it hard to believe they intend to keep Jonathan Aro—who’s somehow still at big league camp—for the role. The most recent update on Simmons is that he played catch on consecutive days last week (Tuesday and Wednesday). The bullpen composition has been one of the biggest question marks throughout spring training, but even with today’s announcements, the picture remains murky.