Despite the rocky moments, Chasen Bradford is returning to a bullpen that is in better shape than when he hit the IL with shoulder inflammation.
When Bradford hit the IL, he’d been used heavily, including in several high-leverage situations where his mere ability to throw a strike made him vital. Now, with Anthony Swarzak, Roenis Elías, and Brandon Brennan all looking capable enough in high-leverage moments, Bradford can return to a role he served capably last year, filling innings without disaster.
That role had been given to Ruben/R.J. Alaniz, who unfortunately had a rough go of it in his first MLB work. Alaniz got some swings and misses and rocked an above-average K% and whiff rate (though not as impressive as his deceptive K/9), but his command got him into trouble both inside and out of the zone. Giving up homers on half of the fly balls he allowed and hard contact all over is tough. Hopefully with his first taste of the bigs behind him, he can focus on his command and return with fewer jitters and a bit more confidence. Tacoma’s bullpen certainly could use him.
The other point of note with this move is that it makes the next likely roster move a curious one. Yusei Kikuchi is slated to start Friday against the Rangers, but this is quite possibly his first intentional short start, designed to help him more easily acclimate to the MLB pace. Justus Sheffield is expected to be called up to piggyback Kikuchi’s start. The trouble is only four M’s pitchers have minor league options and can be sent down - Kikuchi himself, who will be pitching and therefore out, the just recalled Bradford, Erik Swanson, and the Rule-5 Brandon Brennan, who the Mariners will have to return to the Rockies if they remove him from their 25-man roster.
Barring a trade, injury, or DFA that means either Bradford’s return will be short-lived or Swanson will be sent down. In either case, some level of shuffle will be needed, as a player cannot be returned to the majors for a minimum of 10 days following demotion unless there is an injury. But that is an issue for another day, and today Swanson starts, with a slightly steadier bullpen behind him.