SEATTLE – The month of May hasn’t been merry for Seattle Mariners closer Brandon League the past two seasons, and for the second time in as many years, he’ll be taking a break from pitching in the ninth inning.
After blowing his fourth save in 13 opportunities, in a 6-4 loss to the Angels on Friday, League was told by manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis he was being temporarily “pulled back” from his role.
“We’re not naming a closer because Brandon is our closer. We’ll match up with what we think works,” Wedge said. “We’ve only got seven guys in the bullpen, and Hisashi Iwakuma is the long guy and League will work in other roles for now. Other than them, it could be anyone, depending upon the situation.”
No reliever on the staff has a save this season other than League, who saved 37 games in 2011 – his first year closing.
“We’re trying what worked last year,” League said. “It’s not mechanical, it’s a matter of command, of keeping my pitches down. I’ll probably work a couple of non-save situations, see what happens.
“Today, I had a long bullpen session after talking to Wedge and Willis. I know what I have to do. Now I’ve got to do it.”
The obvious candidates to succeed him are right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen and left-handers Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge, but right-handers Shawn Kelley and Steve Delabar also might find themselves working in the ninth.
“It’s not ideal, but this is where we’re at,” Wedge said. “Just like last year, Brandon will be back. He’s a good worker. He made adjustments last year in a similar situation, I expect he will this season, too.
“This is best for him and best for the team.”
Last May, League went 0-4 with three blown saves in a five-day stretch. Wedge held him out for a “mental day off,” pitched him in a non-save situation and then reinstated him as closer.
“There’s no timetable to something like this,” Wedge said.
Mike Carp had an RBI single and two walks Saturday, but the highlight for him might have been a seventh-inning stolen base. It was the first of his big-league career. … Kyle Seager is learning patience at the plate. In his first 35 games, he walked three times, but over his past seven games has taken eight bases on balls. … Michael Saunders has seven stolen bases to match Ichiro for the club lead. Saunders has been caught stealing twice – Ichiro hasn’t been caught this season. … Promotion alert: Kids 14 and under today will get a Justin Smoak growth chart. … Reliever Delabar is coming around after a rugged April. In his past 52/3 innings, he hasn’t allowed a run and has struck out seven.
Seattle will play host to Los Angeles in the series finale at 1:10 p.m. today on Root Sports. Probable starters: C.J. Wilson (5-4, 2.90 ERA) vs. Hector Noesi (2-5, 5.26).firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue