RHP Casey Fien was the least hyped member of the 25-man Opening Day roster, and arguably the entire 40-man, but his success at the MLB-level in four seasons with Minnesota led to the veteran’s inclusion on Seattle’s roster. A rough week and a half later and the 25th man on the roster is being shuffled.
Evan Marshall has a heartwarming story of healing that involves baseball, love, and a very good dog. What he can do for an MLB team is less than clear, however. After a solid 2014 season, Marshall returned from a life-threatening injury off a baseball to the head early in 2015 to struggle in 2016. He saw his velocity decline from 95-96 on his fastball and 84-86 on his changeup and slider down to 92-93 and 82-83 by August of 2016. With that decline he also saw his strikeouts drop from around 25% in 2014 to 11.4% in 2016, while his walk rate leapt from 8.1% to 10.1%. Marshall had a nearly remarkable inability to draw swings and misses last season, and was sent to the DL in August 2016 with a right lumbar spine strain after being sent down to the minors.
If none of this sounds all that encouraging, it’s because, well, it’s not. Marshall hasn’t had success at the MLB level in two years. Some of that is undoubtedly connected to a traumatic experience that he may still be working back from, but it’s tough to see too much that is encouraging through a purely baseball lens. If you are looking for some positivity, there are a few kernels. Marshall’s velocity has picked back up and he was sitting at 95 mph with his sinker all spring. His lone appearance in Tacoma this year was a success, with two strikeouts and one hit in two-thirds of an inning, including K-ing former Mariner Justin Ruggiano. Marshall’s success will depend on if he has rediscovered his slider as much as anything. He drew swings on pitches out of the zone over 40% of the time in 2014, much of which was with that slider. In 2016 that number was just 29.6%.
It seems likely that Tony Zych’s readiness is imminent, though due to rainouts in Tacoma he is not yet ready, pushing Marshall into service. OF Boog Powell was also reinstated to the AAA roster, having served his time for a PED suspension. He’ll join Fien in Tacoma, and we may see a commensurate roster move for them, with Dario Pizzano the likeliest to be moved to Arkansas. Powell will join the intriguing AAA outfield that is Ben Gamel and Tyler O’Neill.