In an effort to reload the bullpen with fresh arms after needing the bullpen to log 10.0 innings over the past two games, the Mariners selected RHP Matt Festa from Double-A Arkansas on prior to Saturday’s matchup with the Colorado Rockies, optioning RHP Christian Bergman back to Tacoma after providing a spot start on Friday.
.@Mariners select contract of RHP Matt Festa from Double-A Arkansas; option RHP Christian Bergman to Triple-A Tacoma.— MLBRosterMoves (@MLBRosterMoves) July 14, 2018
A starter at East Stroudsburg University (and another relief gem scooped up by the Mariners in the D-II ranks), Festa burst onto the scene last season by posting 12.8 K/9 and a 3.01 xFIP for High-A Modesto. The Staten Island native was rewarded with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to post impressive strikeout numbers (11 in 8.0 innings) but surrendered seven earned runs. It’s hard to project forward from the limited sample size of the AFL, but one thing that’s shown to have correlation with MLB success is strikeout ratio, and Festa had success in that department. The highlight of his AFL stint was an appearance in the All-Star game, where he needed just eight pitches to collect two strikeouts and a weak comebacker off top prospects Corey Ray, Shelden Neuse, and Victor Reyes. Unfortunately, a hip injury limited him in spring training, and we didn’t get to see Festa in action with the big club.
Festa has carried his success forward into the Texas League, where the 25-year-old righty has been dynamite for the Travs this season, going a perfect 13-for-13 in save opportunities. He’s struck out an eye-popping 31.7% of batters while walking just 5%. Working with a mid-90s fastball and three different breaking balls, Festa throws a low-80s changeup and a high-70s curveball with some 12-6 action, but his putaway pitch is his wipeout power slider:
His fastball might not have upper-90s heat, but what Festa lacks in plus-plus velocity he makes up for in command. In this at-bat against Brewers prospect Corey Ray, Festa threw three 95-mph fastballs: one on the outside corner, one right at the bottom of the zone, and then this one on the inside edge for a swinging strike three.
But his nastiest pitch is probably his hard slider, which runs away from righty batters. Here’s an 88 mph slider that falls just off the outside corner in an 0-2 count that A’s Sheldon Neuse can’t lay off of:
The Mariners have two games against Colorado remaining before the All-Star break and are slated to start LHP Wade LeBlanc and RHP Mike Leake. Here’s hoping we get to see Festa in his first big-league action in at least one of those games.