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Mariners recall LHP Roenis Elías, option RHP Drew Steckenrider to Tacoma

Bringing back the veteran lefty ideally solves three problems at once

2021 Seattle Mariners Photo Day
“I’ll never be your Bullpen Dad, but I’d like to be your Bullpen Friend”
Photo by Robert Beck/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Yesterday word broke that the Mariners had demoted struggling RHP Drew Steckenrider to Tacoma, and today we got the corresponding move: the recall of LHP Roenis Elías.

Recalling Elías solves several problems: not only does he replace the struggling Steck, but Elías’s history as a starter provides length out of the bullpen in case of emergency that has been missing since fellow Justus Sheffield was assigned to Tacoma. With George Kirby scrapping to get through five innings every turn plus the occasional, inevitable pitching blowup, that length is desperately needed by the current Mariners.

Finally, Elías also gives the bullpen another lefty to supplement Anthony Misiewicz, who has simply been relied on too heavily this season, as we saw in the ill-fated decision this Tuesday to try to squeeze another inning out of him. Misiewicz had a 1.86 ERA in his first 12 appearances this season; over his past three, he’s surrendered five earned runs.

For Steckenrider, he’ll have a chance to go to Tacoma and try to figure out what’s gone so terribly wrong for him this season after being one of the team’s more valuable and consistent relievers last year. Currently Steck holds an ERA of 5.65, almost three times his 2021 ERA, and it could be way worse, according to expected statistics: his DRA is 6.08 and his xERA is 8.65. Batters are barreling him up about twice as often as they did last year, with an atrocious .653 xSLG that is bottom of the league. These are all career-worst marks for Steckenrider except for the 14 innings he pitched in Miami in 2019 before needing TJ surgery, so hopefully what’s going wrong with Steck is just something mechanical/mental that can be solved with some time off from big league hitters, and not a symptom of something more sinister.

Elías hasn’t pitched a ton in Tacoma this season as he comes back from TJ surgery; his fastball is down a little from where it was prior to surgery, but still routinely hitting 93-94 MPH, and of course he still possesses that gorgeous curve, although he’s faded it some as a reliever to focus on a whiff-getting changeup. Over 17.1 innings in Tacoma, he’s held his own in the offensive-heavy environment of the PCL, with an ERA of 3.63.

There’s still plenty of work to do in fixing this bullpen, and relying on a 33-year-old recently coming off TJ surgery is a relatively thin band-aid, but it’s a multi-pronged solution to several of the problems currently facing the bullpen. Also, adding Roenis adds another veteran of both MLB and the team itself to the ‘pen. Specifically, adding a long-tenured Mariner who loves the organization, the city, and the fanbase is an upward arrow for the vibe check, at a time when the team could desperately use some good vibes.