Yesterday Christian Bergman took the mound, envisioned all the Texas Rangers as members of the Sacramento River Cats (a team which he utterly owns), and pitched seven shutout innings of baseball. Today he was rewarded for that feat by being optioned back to Tacoma, to again terrorize the PCL with his 2.92 FIP and 15.3% K/BB. Bergman will be back at some point, as he’s been Tacoma’s best and most reliable starter, and although the stuff isn’t extraordinary, he’s pretty much exactly what you want as an emergency spot starter. I just hope he’s around for dress-up day this year.
In his stead, reliever Ryan Cook is coming up. Due to a string of injuries that is basically the baseball equivalent of the Book of Job, Cook hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2015. He’s technically been a Mariner since 2016, although outside of a one-inning “uh-oh, still hurt” rehab appearance he hasn’t thrown a pitch for the club until this year. Cook alternated between looking like his former All-Star self at times this spring, and having some meltdown innings, as is to be expected for someone who hasn’t competed at this level since David Ortíz was still playing baseball and not making a reality show, and was optioned to Tacoma at the start of the season. In 13 innings, Cook has been electric in Tacoma, with an FIP that matches his ERA of 2, and 11.48 K/9 and a BB/9 of 2.03. Best of all, his velocity is back up to where it was when he was an All-Star reliever for Oakland, and in fact even higher—per Mike Curto, he’s been touching 98 on the gun at Tacoma. Here he is striking out Tony Kemp, who was just called up by the Astros, on three pitches:
The Mariners had open slots on the 40-man, so they don’t have to kick anyone off to add Cook. They can open yet another slot by moving David Phelps to the 60-day DL, as well (he can’t be moved as long as there are open spots on the 40-man). Cook has been on a warrior’s journey over the past few years, and done so with good spirits; this profile on him by Ryan Divish was one of the best things written about the Mariners from all of Spring Training. In it, Cook talks about how he stayed mentally strong during the numerous setbacks he encountered during rehab and how offering guidance to the younger players, many of them facing their first extensive bouts of rehab, helped him find purpose and meaning within his own rehab. He also talks about his gratitude to the Mariners, for having kept him on even while he was hurt:
“I cannot say enough good things about the staff that’s been here, the training staff that I had, the organization and the front office for giving me the opportunity because let’s be honest not many would, I don’t think,” he said. “I’m extremely thankful to Jerry and his staff and everybody to give me that opportunity for sure. In some aspect, it would be really nice to be myself again and do it for the organization and those guys that have given me this opportunity.”
Ryan Cook pitching well would be an incredible personal victory for him. Ryan Cook pitching well for the Mariners would be a shot in the arm for a franchise that’s been through a lot already in this young season, and a nice payback for the time the team stayed invested in Cook when he was at his lowest. It’s a story everyone involved both needs and deserves. Let’s hope it comes true.