Friday, March 21, 2008

Bullpen Shaping Up + No Bonds, Beltre's Thumb

First of all, I'd like to start with an omission. I hadn't been keeping up on my M's reading as much as I usually do, but a couple more roster cuts trickled in on Wednesday night and I failed to catch them. LHP Philip Barzilla and 3B Matt Tuiasosopo were both reassigned to minor league camp. Barzilla wasn't much of a surprise despite throwing three scoreless innings in his two appearances this spring. Tuiasosopo never had any shot of making the club; the only reason he was hanging around was to help fill the remaining split-squad lineups.

The bullpen is practically set. While we still don't know for certain whether or not manager John McLaren will opt for a 6-man or 7-man 'pen, it's looking more and more like he'll go small.

J.J. Putz will be the closer. Sean Green will undoubtedly float between middle relief and setup duties. Eric O'Flaherty beat out Cesar Jimenez and has won the left-handed specialist job. Brandon Morrow is a lock as well, but his health has been in question. Though there had been some talk of Morrow opening the season in extended Spring Training or on the disabled list, he has been throwing and is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day.

The fifth spot will go to one of Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma or Mark Lowe, according to manager John McLaren. Reitsma hasn't been sharp at all, so you can count him out. Rhodes thinks he'll be ready for Opening Day, which puts him over a month ahead of his rehabilitation schedule. That alone makes me a little nervous, but he hasn't had the best stuff and I'm not convinced he'll earn a spot. Lowe is probably putting together the best spring. He has been effective while throwing his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s to go along with good secondary pitches. He is the clear favorite of the three.

Cha Seung Baek is not going to make this team should everything go as planned. He has been fantastic this spring, allowing a single run and just one walk over his 11 innings of work. While R.A Dickey hasn't been quite as good, he is much more durable than Baek and is the reason Seattle can go with the 6-man bullpen should they choose to. Dickey continues to pitch phenomenally in his own right, posting a 1.50 ERA through his first 12 Cactus League innings. Baek has been brought up in recent trade talks, but unless a deal gets done quickly he'll likely be heading to the free agent ranks.

Putz, Morrow, Green, O'Flaherty, Lowe and Dickey; could that be McLaren's 6-man bullpen? O'Flaherty is the only lefty of this group. Is that a problem? I'm not sure. If you had a 7- or 8-man 'pen you would certainly carry multiple lefties, but is it necessary in a 6-man? Australian lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith has certainly earned a spot in the 'pen, pitching 11 scoreless innings so far this spring. He is the most likely candidate to fill a temporary spot should Morrow or Reitsma/Lowe/Rhodes need more time to get healthy, but is there a permanent spot for him? If McLaren goes with the 7-man 'pen, I say yes. McLaren stated earlier this spring that he was looking for relievers that could go more than a single inning, and RRS certainly fits the bill after pitching some long relief last year and starting in Winter Ball this offseason. It will be interesting to see which route the team goes. The bench situation has been a little murky after a series of defensive blunders by Mike Morse, so the decision to go with 11 or 12 pitchers will go right down to the wire.

Other tidbits:

*Seattle will not go after home run king Barry Bonds under any circumstances. "No, absolutely not," said Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln when asked about a possible Bonds acquisition. "No. No. No."

I've gotta say, it's about time this came out. I was getting so sick of hearing about Seattle being the best fit for Bonds, and hopefully these quotes will finally dismiss the idea. Yeah, he's still good. Yeah, he'd help the team. But, more importantly, he could realistically be absent for extended periods of time for court appearances and would be a team chemistry killer. Thank you, Mr. Howard Lincoln, for finally putting this to rest.

*Adrian Beltre's injured thumb is not fully healed. In fact, the severe sprain he suffered on June 1st of last season ended up being a torn ligament, a very painful injury for Beltre to deal with day in and day out. He will, as always, play through the pain. The injury effects him more on defense than on offense, and he did win the Gold Glove last season. Don't be too worried about Adrian, but it is unfortunate that he couldn't come into Spring Training at 100%.

Sources: Looking at the No. 2 hole (again), Sights and Sounds: Morrow's bullpen session, Mariners not interested in Bonds, Adrian's Thumb, Morrow, Rhodes say they'll be ready for March 31 opener, Spring Scouting Report, Is there room for Rowland-Smith in the bullpen?, Thursday into Friday not a good time for McLaren, 5-man Bench, 6-man Bullpen?, Morse not on team yet


Brandon said...

I don't know how others view it, but with morrow having a little bit of a sore shoulder, and potentially giving a roster to a rehab pitcher, doesn't it make sense to start the season out with a 7 man bullpen? Please remember that McLaren managed the 'pen like an idiot last year and could possibly do the same again this year. I think I would like to have a seven man pen with Rhodes (so we have 2 lefties) and Baek to start the season. If Rhodes and Morrow's arms end up being fine, we can then trade Baek instead of let him go for nothing.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a 7-man 'pen makes more sense, especially early in the year. I disagree that we should carry Rhodes. He's so far ahead of schedule that I feel his arm is just going to fall off, and he hasn't had great stuff anyway.. not to mention he hasn't had a good season in quite some time. I would much rather go with RRS, as there is no reason for him to become a starter in AAA.

It all comes down to the bench. Morse's hitting can't be ignored (though his defense, as I mentioned in this post, has been suspect), McLaren loves Jimerson's speed as well as Norton's pinch hitting abilities. It's a crowded house down there, so it'll all depend on who stays and who goes.

Rob T. said...

They can keep Morse, Jimerson and Norton if they would cut Cairo.

Brandon said...

RRS works too...I just think it's really dumb to start the year with 6 in the pen...even if dickey can pitch back to back days...

Rob T. said...

Mclaren had a slip of the tounge today and said this:

"Unless there’s something going on with one of these guys - Dickey, the Rule 5 guy, if we’ve got a deal going for one of our guys who’s out of options," he said. "That may push us back, but I’d like to be set when we hit that plane. I don’t know that we can do that, but that would be my goal."

It looks like there will be a trade.

greyguy said...

It seems to me that the benefit of a 7 man bullpen is so that either you can do lots of situational match-ups (i.e. call in a lefty to face a tough lefty), or because you think your starting 5 is crap and you plan on needing a lot of bullpen.

Given that we've traded half our farm system for Bedard and over paid Silva on the theory that we're going to have a good rotation this year, I don't see the point in going with a 7 man rotation unless we have at least 2 lefties.