Freshly bolstered bullpen key for Mariners

Staff writerMarch 6, 2014 

PEORIA, Ariz. — Well, of course Danny Farquhar wants the ball when the Mariners are trying to close out a victory in the ninth inning.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “Every single guy in the bullpen should want to close. If not, you don’t have a heart.”

And ... well, of course, that’s not likely to happen once the regular season arrives.

That duty belongs to closer Fernando Rodney, whom the Mariners signed last month for $14 million over the next two seasons. An 11-year veteran, he saved 85 games over the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays.

And Farquhar is all right with that, too, even though he posted a 2.10 earned-run average over 25 games last season, with 16 saves in 18 chances, after replacing Tom Wilhelmsen as the Mariners’ closer.

“It just makes our bullpen much better to have an extra guy with that experience at the end of the game,” Farquhar said. “The way I see it, it’s the best move for the team. So I’m all for it.”

Farquhar’s late-season work aside, an improved bullpen looms as one of bigger keys if the Mariners are to shed their status as a speed bag for contenders.

A look back at the 2013 numbers remains chilling.

There were 13 walk-off losses, 27 defeats when opponents scored the winning run in their last at-bat and 15 losses in extra innings.

And worse, it’s not just last year.

The Mariners amassed 47 walk-off losses since 2010. No other club in either league has more than 37.

“I know there were a lot of questions about our bullpen,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I looked at a lot of game tape, the losses that we had late in games.”

And?

“I’ll simply say this,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to fail. Get knocked down on the mat. But at some point, you’ve got to get up and start fighting back.

“I think it’s time for some of our young pitchers, particularly in that bullpen, to get up off the mat. Let’s find out what you’re made of.”

The decision to sign Rodney was aimed, in no small part, toward changing the bullpen’s culture — an attempt to infuse a much-battered unit with some let’s-rock mojo.

“He allows us to put everybody else in a different slot,” McClendon said. “This guy is a back-of-the-bullpen guy. He’s established. He’s dominating, and he’s fearless.

“I think he’s going to be great for us. I think he’s going to be great for the attitude down in that bullpen.”

That attitude comes with ... well, it comes with some of what McClendon calls “island dance music” but, beyond that, few bells and whistles.

“My situation is to try to close the games,” Rodney announced when he arrived. “Try to do my job.”

The unspoken implication is clear enough.

McClendon envisions a seven-man bullpen (although eight remains a possibility) and, like all managers, wants a mix of right- and left-handers for matchup purposes.

“Ideally, you’d like to have those defined roles,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish in spring training — to get those defined roles. I would like to have an eighth-inning left-handed and right-handed guy.

“Now, you’ve got something.”

mariners recap

Indians 8, Mariners 5 (at Peoria Stadium)

The facts: The Mariners can handle just about everybody, it seems, but Cleveland prospect Francisco Lindor delivered the winning hit for the second time in four days. This time, it was a tiebreaking RBI double in the ninth inning. On Sunday, Lindor hit a three-run home run that broke a tie in the Indians’ 6-3 victory over the Mariners in Goodyear. Those are the Mariners’ only losses in eight spring games.

Play of the game: The Indians broke a 5-5 tie in a three-run ninth against right-hander Danny Farquhar after successive defensive miscues. First, catcher Humberto Quintero dropped a catchable one-out foul pop by Joe Wendle. That was charitably ruled a no-play. Wendle then sent a fly to right that Xavier Avery dropped for a two-base error. Lindor followed with a double to right. More miscues (and more runs) followed.

Plus: Pretty much everything before the Mariners pulled their starters for mass substitutions after the sixth inning. They had a 5-1 lead at the time. ... Abraham Almonte opened a four-run first inning with a homer to right. Nick Franklin contributed a two-run single.

Minus: Left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge spit back a four-run lead in the seventh and failed to make it out of the inning. Cleveland pulled even on a two-run homer by Ryan Raburn after a throwing error by third baseman Carlos Triunfel. ... Farquhar deserved far better than his line indicates.

Quotable: “It’s more pitches than I would like to throw in the regular season in three innings. ... But overall, I think it was pretty good.” — Mariners starter James Paxton after throwing 45 pitches, 31 for strikes, in three scoreless innings

Extra innings: Right-hander Taijuan Walker is scheduled to resume his throwing program Thursday by playing catch. He was shut down for one week because of shoulder inflammation. ... The latest odds from online gaming service Bovada peg the Mariners as a 7-1 shot to win the American League West.

Up next: Right-hander Scott Baker gets his second start Thursday when the Mariners head back to Camelback Ranch to face the Chicago White Sox. He pitched two scoreless innings Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels. ... Closer Fernando Rodney is also slotted for his spring debut. The game is at 12:05 p.m. (PST) and can be heard on 710-AM. MARINERS’ Leading bullpen candidates

LHP Joe Beimel: Veteran of 567 games looks to regain form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.

RHP Danny Farquhar: Strong finish in 2013 as closer positions him as the leading candidate as top set-up reliever for closer Fernando Rodney.

LHP Charlie Furbush: Has all the tools to be the unit’s primary set-up lefty reliever; that role could be his to lose.

LHP Bobby LaFromboise: Slipped somewhat last year after promising 2012 at Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma. Needs big spring to make club.

LHP Lucas Luetge: Another prime left-on-left candidate after yielding just two extra-base hits last season to left-handed batters.

RHP Brandon Maurer: Likely to get a long look as a starter because of injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but could make club as long reliever.

RHP Yoervis Medina: A power arm who seemed to get better as the season unfolded. His strikeout ability makes him a logical choice with runners on base in sixth or seventh innings.

RHP Hector Noesi: He’s out of options, so there’s that, but he has much to prove after two rocky years spent primarily as a starter. Could be the long reliever.

RHP Ramon Ramirez: A veteran in camp as a nonroster invite, he’s looking to shake off two disappointing seasons. Had a 2.77 earned-run average in 276 games from 2008-11.

RHP Fernando Rodney: Signed to be the closer. Mariners hoping they get the guy who posted a 0.60 ERA in 2012, but even last year’s version (3.38) will be a plus.

RHP Tom Wilhelmsen: Looms as a prime bounce-back candidate in a set-up role. Performed well as closer in 2012, but slipped last season and lost job to Farquhar.

LHP Randy Wolf: Duty as a long reliever is a fall-back option for a veteran seeking a job in the rotation after missing last season while recovering from a second Tommy John surgery.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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