CHICAGO – When rookie reliever Stephen Pryor reported for duty in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen Friday, manager Eric Wedge was impressed before he was even in uniform.
“I’d forgotten how damned big he was – he filled my doorway,” Wedge said.
Pryor, 22, fills most everything around him at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds.
“I watched him throw a few times in spring training, and he’s got a power arm,” Wedge said. “We’ll try to get his first appearance out of the way and go from there.”
Though he started the season at Double-A Jackson, Pryor said his goal went well beyond getting to Triple-A Tacoma.
“I wanted to get to the big leagues this year,” Pryor said. “I didn’t think it would be this soon, but I thought I could get here this season. I just kept pounding the strike zone, forcing contact.”
In a combined 28 innings between Jackson and Tacoma, Pryor held opposing hitters to a .121 average, saved nine games and struck out 39 batters.
“His fastball in Tacoma averaged 95 mph and occasionally hit 100 mph, though you have to see one of those to believe it,” Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis said. “Pryor has a fastball, a slider that’s getting better and a change-up he’s working on.
“Command is coming. He’s here because he deserved to be here.”
Pryor replaced right-hander Steve Delabar, who was sent to the Rainiers to work on his slider and recommit to throwing his fastball from a higher angle on a downward plane.
Pryor, meanwhile, flew his wife and two daughters – one 3 years old, the other born during spring training, to Chicago. They were immediately joined by family flying in from Tennessee in hope of seeing Pryor’s first major league game.
ICHIRO HITS FIRST
The Mariners moved Ichiro from third in the lineup to the spot he had occupied most of his career – leadoff.
“We’re a couple of months in, and batting first is where he has the most experience, where he’s the most relaxed,” Wedge said. “I told him we were doing this before the game Wednesday. If he can get going, it will help the team.”
Ichiro is batting .271 with a .305 on-base percentage – Dustin Ackley, who will now bat second, had a .320 OBP entering Friday’s game.
Wedge said there shouldn’t be an adjustment for Ichiro.
“I don’t think he made any drastic changes in his approach batting third,” Wedge said. “We’ll see how this works.”
The Mariners’ bullpen is now made up of three rookies, Pryor, Lucas Luetge and Hisashi Iwakuma, with two other pitchers – Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen – in their second big league seasons. The veterans are Brandon League (nine years) and Shawn Kelley (two-plus years). … That 21-run outburst in Texas on Wednesday pushed Seattle from 22nd in the major leagues in run scored to 16th. It also pushed the Mariners’ average for runs per game to 4.11. … Shortstop Brendan Ryan was named Defensive Player of the Month by a 12-man ESPN panel, which found that he’d saved 13 runs with his defense in the month.
Seattle plays Chicago in a 1:10 p.m. (PDT) game on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Hector Noesi (2-6, 5.01 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (4-5, 5.02).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners