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Mariners make flurry of roster moves, shake up pitching staff

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it’s that time of the season

MLB: Spring Training-San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, Ryan Divish hinted at a pitching staff shakeup going down, with a couple new relievers heading up in exchange for a couple old ones. Sure enough, that shakeup has occurred, and as a bonus, an old friend returns!

After a brutal outing last night, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Erik Swanson sent down for a regroup in Triple-A. The big righty showed flashes of potential over his first seven Major League games (six starts): he walked just five hitters, ranked third-fastest in FanGraphs’s Pace metric among all pitchers with at least twenty innings, and brought an intriguing fastball that occasionally touched 96 to the table. Alas, neither of his secondaries appeared big league ready, and he had a severe case of dingeritis with a whopping eleven homers allowed over just 31.1 innings. It’s too early to label Swanson a bust, but he doesn’t feel like an MLB pitcher at this point in time. Here’s to hoping he works on his command and secondary pitches in Tacoma.

Zac Rosscup is the second casualty, and I’m amazed that his FIP is sitting in the low fours. Across fourteen innings this season, Rosscup has issued fourteen walks and struck out twenty. In other words, he’s either walked or struck out almost exactly half of all batters he’s faced. Not the most fun or relaxing type of guy to watch. Rosscup’s ground ball rate has been solid, though, and he’s still dominating lefties, so it’s a reasonable assumption that a team hurting for bullpen help may snap him up.

Righties Ryan Garton and Matt Festa will be joining the MLB club, and both have previous experience in Seattle. After coming over in the Mike Marjama deal in August 2017, Garton pitched well in a handful of innings in the final month of that season, but didn’t appear in the big leagues last season, in part because of a hip surgery. He’s been a reliable innings-eater in a beleaguered Tacoma bullpen, and could see some action in middle and long relief. Festa opened the year with Seattle, but struggled over seven innings, walking more hitters than he struck out and posting a FIP of just under 6. Like Garton, it’s unlikely he’ll be deployed in anything close to a high-leverage situation, but he’s a year removed from jumping from Double-A to the Majors, and there’s still an interesting arm in there.

Finally, Seattle brought Andrew Moore home. After being traded to the Rays last May for Denard Span and Álex Colomé, Moore scuffled quite a bit with Triple-A Durham, posting a 5.57 FIP over 83 innings with a marked dip in strikeouts. He’s bounced around a bit this year, going from Tampa to a brief stop with the Giants’ Triple-A squad to Seattle, but should hopefully benefit from an assignment to Arkansas. Moore has always shown well-above-average pitching smarts, but has suffered from a lack of an out pitch and merely average fastball velocity. He may be a prime candidate for the Mariners’ “gas camp”, which prospects Ljay Newsome and Darren McCaughan attended and have since flourished.

Nick Rumbelow was the third and final roster casualty of this blizzard of moves, and this might be even less surprising than the Swanson demotion. After putting up dismal results at both the Major League and Triple-A levels, the 27-year-old seems pretty thoroughly broken, and seems likely to pass through waivers. He’s had his share of injuries, particularly a nasty neck issue which plagued him much of last year, but it’s safe to say he probably won’t be back in the Majors any time soon.