After Springing a Few Leaks, Mariners Patch Bullpen with Ryne Stanek

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports activities

Each workforce heads into spring coaching with The Plan for his or her roster. February is a time to dream about what may very well be, as new offseason acquisitions combine with the holdovers in camp. Then the fact of March settles in, spring accidents begin to mount and The Plan is instantly compromised or must be thrown utterly out the window. For the Mariners, The Plan for his or her bullpen included some mixture of Andrés Muñoz, Matt Brash, and Gregory Santos locking down the ultimate few innings of any recreation they have been main. Sadly, the latter two of these three relievers at the moment are coping with harm points that can preserve them from being prepared come Opening Day.

Brash had been coping with elbow irritation this spring after making extra appearances (78) than another reliever in baseball final 12 months. Fortunately, surgical procedure isn’t on the desk but, however the M’s are taking an understandably cautious strategy to a key member of their ‘pen. Santos ended final season on the injured listing resulting from an elbow problem and confirmed up in Arizona this spring with a sore shoulder. He had simply began to ramp up his throwing program when he strained his lat on Tuesday. It doesn’t look like a critical problem, but it surely’s one other setback for a pitcher who seemed to be a key offseason acquisition. Along with dropping Brash and Santos to begin the season, Seattle’s bullpen depth took a success when Jackson Kowar was identified with a UCL tear final week; he’ll bear Tommy John surgical procedure, sidelining him till 2025.

To offer some insurance coverage for his or her sudden lack of high-leverage choices, Seattle signed Ryne Stanek to a one-year, $4 million deal on Friday. A setup man for the Astros over the past three years, Stanek compiled a strong 2.90 ERA throughout that point, although his 3.91 FIP wasn’t as fairly because of a really excessive stroll fee. Nonetheless, his 27% strikeout fee and elite stuff enable him to be efficient regardless of all of the visitors on the basepaths.

Final 12 months, Stanek managed to get his stroll fee to a hair under 10%, the bottom of his profession. His strikeout fee additionally dipped, nevertheless, and the excessive house run luck he loved in 2022 regressed again in the direction of his profession norms. The tip consequence was an ERA over 4 and a FIP greater than a run and a half increased than it was two years in the past. The improved stroll fee is fairly simple to dissect: Stanek situated his pitches within the strike zone on the highest fee of his profession final season. Particularly, his fastball was thrown over the plate virtually 60% of the time. Opposing batters weren’t fooled by the change in strategy; hitters’ general swing fee in opposition to Stanek’s pitches rose 5 factors to a career-high, a rise that was completely pushed by extra swings on pitches within the zone.

The will to curtail his downside with free passes is a noble one, although pumping fastballs into the strike zone may be the flawed technique. Stanek doesn’t have nice command of his slider or splitter, although each of these pitches generate tons of swings and misses. For pretty much as good as his secondary choices are, Stanek is fairly reliant on his four-seamer, throwing it practically 65% of the time. Maybe the Mariners’ vaunted pitching improvement lab can assist him work out the way to hone the command of his secondary choices. For his half, Stanek is worked up to work with the workforce to seek out methods to enhance. “As a pitcher and any person that desires to get higher, it’s a very cool factor to observe and now to be part of,” he instructed reporters after signing. Even when nothing adjustments, he’ll nonetheless be an skilled high-leverage reliever filling a sudden hole in Seattle’s bullpen.

With Stanek now within the fold, it seems as if the Mariners have six spots of their reduction corps nailed down, with Muñoz, Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Trent Thornton, and Austin Voth rounding out the group. Meaning there are two spots up for grabs and loads of pitchers battling to interrupt camp on the key league roster:

Seattle’s Spring Standouts

Carlos Vargas was one of many gamers the Mariners acquired within the Eugenio Suárez deal this offseason, and his uncooked stuff offers him a leg up on the remainder of the competitors. His fastball sits within the higher 90s and he additionally possesses a superb exhausting slider. His outings this spring have been a bit inconsistent, but when he’s in a position to harness his command with the assistance of the Mariners improvement workers, he may very well be an actual weapon out of the ‘pen. He’ll seemingly get a shot to show he can stick within the majors out of spring coaching.

The ultimate spot is extra up within the air. With each Brash and Santos more likely to return from the IL someday early within the season, roster flexibility shall be paramount. Meaning non-roster invitees and gamers who don’t have any minor league choices remaining have further hurdles to beat. That features Ty Buttrey and Tyson Miller, two spring standouts. The previous is trying to return to the majors for the primary time since 2020; he stepped away from baseball in 2021 and has spent the final two years toiling away within the minor leagues. At his peak again in 2019, nevertheless, Buttrey was a high-leverage reliever for the Angels and is reportedly firing fastballs within the higher 90s this spring.

Miller has drawn comparisons to Paul Sewald from Mariners supervisor Scott Servais this spring because of his driving fastball, sweeping slider, and low launch level. And like Sewald, Miller is a little bit of a reclamation challenge after having bounced round between three completely different groups final 12 months:

Miller/Sewald Pitch Comparability

Pitcher/Pitch Velocity V Mov H Mov V Rel. Level H Rel. Level
Sewald FB 92.2 13.7 10.5 4.38 -3.70
Miller FB 91.0 10.2 1.4 4.89 -3.82
Sewald SL 83.8 9.1 11.1 4.47 -3.75
Miller SL 82.1 1.6 11.7 4.84 -3.91

For those who squint, you may sort of see some similarities between Sewald and Miller. Miller’s launch level is low, although not as little as Sewald’s, and his fastball has some fairly good trip to it, although not as a lot as Sewald’s. What Miller does have working for him is elite extension down the mound because of his 6-foot-5 body.

Buttrey and Miller might want to proceed to face out by way of the top of the month to safe that last spot within the Mariners’ bullpen. It’s more likely Seattle will go together with one of many choices already on their 40-man roster, like Cody Bolton or Mauricio Llovera. Each have been offseason waiver claims and neither has had a lot success within the majors up to now. Bolton has a mid-90s fastball that he pairs with a sweeper and a changeup. Like Stanek, he fills the zone along with his heater and makes an attempt to get batters to chase his secondary stuff out of the zone, although that strategy didn’t work within the large leagues throughout his transient cup of espresso final 12 months. Llovera has a bit extra main league expertise, seeing motion in components of the final three seasons. He works east-to-west with a sinker-slider arsenal that has tons of horizontal motion. He’s additionally out of minor league choices, making his struggle to make the Opening Day roster a bit extra pressing.

Irrespective of who they go together with, although, they’ll have to get artistic with how they deploy their bridge relievers to get to Stanek and Muñoz within the eighth and ninth innings. What’s actually thrilling is considering the potential energy of this unit as soon as Brash and Santos return to full well being. As Servais put it, “We’ve plenty of velocity. And if we get all people wholesome, we’ve got a shit ton of velocity.” Till then, the Mariners must hope that Stanek and whoever emerges from their spring competitors shall be sufficient to carry down the fort.

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