The Mariners’ rotation struggles have been well documented this season, so I won’t spend any time on that. Mariners starters not named James Paxton have combined for -0.5 fWAR this half. But I am not here to rehash that problem, I’m here to bring you a solution! Maybe.
Enter RHP Lindsey Caughel.
In case you missed it, Caughel tossed a three-hit, zero-walk shutout last night for Double-A Arkansas, and needed only 83 pitches to do it. And yes, that was over nine innings. Back in March—shortly after being snatched away from the Lincoln Saltdogs of the Independent League American Association—Lindsey was kind enough to chat with me for a bit about his interesting career arc.
If you haven’t been following the recently-turned 27-year-old’s return to minor league ball this season, you should be. In 13 starts this half of the season here’s Caughel’s line:
With a line like that, especially for such an extended period of time, the Stetson University product seems like a logical candidate for a call-up, if not to Seattle, at least to the Triple-A level where he’d face competition closer to big league caliber. One potential hesitation from the organization regarding moving him along could be his rough first half:
That said, it stands to reason that a guy coming off of shoulder labrum surgery who’d thrown just three innings of organized professional baseball since 2014 would need a little time to shake off the rust. Further supporting his case for a promotion is that Caughel actually credited his recent run of success to a change in approach rather than just chalking it up to a hot streak. When asked about his lights-out second half, Caughel had this to say:
I had a meeting with our Mental Skills Coach (David Franco) that really helped me focus on the next pitch and next pitch only. I've also got a really good relationship with our catcher (Tyler) Marlette.
Marlette has caught 81 of the Travs’ 135 games this season (splitting time with Marcus Littlewood and, recently, Steven Baron), but he has been behind the plate for 21 of Caughel’s 25 starts.
Despite his late breakout season in which he’s leading the M’s Double-A affiliate in starts, wins, innings pitched, complete games, and shutouts, Caughel isn’t considered a “prospect”. He’s two years older than league average for the Double-A level, and he just set his career high in innings pitched at 150.2. At 27-years-old, and with a surgically repaired labrum already in his past, it’s anybody’s guess how many bullets that right arm has left in it, but it’s no doubt that they’re being wasted pitching meaningless games for a Double-A team that’s mathematically eliminated from their playoffs. With the Travelers’ final game coming Monday, Caughel could possibly be in line for one last start with the team, barring promotion. With Seattle’s roster expanding tomorrow, and a rotation that, even after acquiring Mike Leake, is still in shambles, Caughel has made a strong case for himself over the last two months for a chance to crack a rotation that has auditioned a whopping nine sub-replacement level pitchers this season. If nothing else, he definitely deserves a chance to test his mettle against Triple-A batters.