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Mariners grab IPen Shuffle, activate RHPs Shawn Armstrong & Ruben Alaniz, demote Matt Festa & Erik Swanson

Two new candidates for saves arrive fresh off solid AAA debuts.

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Mariners have six players with saves this season, despite just three of them being active. Two more candidates arrive today to buoy the M’s bullpen against the Astros, who boast the AL’s second-best offense this season by wRC+ and third-best by wOBA (the Mariners are of course first in both).

Seattle has gotten slightly trustier showings from the bullpen this week against the miserable Royals, but hot start or not they’ll need to be on the top of their game against Houston. Headed to Tacoma are RHPs Matt Festa and Erik Swanson. Both will be back in the bigs soon enough, with Festa set to make his first ever AAA appearances after jumping straight from AA-Arkansas last year. Swanson showed his potential yesterday in his MLB debut, striking out four in two innings and receiving less than little help from his defense. He’s most useful if he can stretch as a starter, and should anything befall the M’s rotation we’ll likely see him again. They’ll both be joined by new signee Neftali Feliz, who is still somehow just 30-years-old and showed his velocity returning to the levels he had when he was a high-leverage worker for the Rangers in the early part of the decade.

Arriving in their places are a familiar face and a fresh one. Shawn Armstrong is hardly an old hand in the Emerald City, but when your coworkers change at the rate they do in a Dipoto regime, guys with over a year in the system like Armstrong become veterans quickly. In the dark mists of 2018’s close, it was Armstrong who earned the save on the season’s final day. He’s been on MLB clubs for parts of five seasons now, including the World Series Cleveland team of 2016 (although not their playoff roster) and he’s a good bet to share high-leverage work.

Ruben Alaniz (pronounced ah-lah-NIECE, and sometimes referred to as R.J. Alaniz) will be in line to be the 5th player to make their MLB debut for the Mariners this year (sorry David McKay). Signed less than a week after Dylan Moore in mid-November, Alaniz was a slightly surprising candidate for an MLB contract, but the allure of a 40-man spot likely guaranteed Seattle’s shot at signing him. He’s a long tall Texan with a three-pitch combo and multi-inning stamina that is both in vogue and highly prioritized by the Mariners. His fastball has been 92-96, his power curve has good late bite, and he works in a solid changeup as well. The 27-year-old has been a high-leverage worker in both his appearances this year in Tacoma. Here he is using the curve to strike out Stephen Vogt swinging last week.

Big old chompers on that late bite.

That was his third strikeout of the night, and he would record two more in route to a 2.0 inning, five K, six up/six down outing. Here’s a look at his mid-90s heater.


It’s not a repertoire that screams off the page, per se, but everything looks solid, easy, and after a 10.5 K/9 in 91.1 innings at AAA over four seasons, it’s time to see what the bigs can do.