With his projected starting rotation in ruins roughly a month into the season, manager Scott Servais tried to take a little pressure off his pitchers before the Mariners’ last road trip.
With the likes of Chase De Jong staying in the starting five, and others such as Christian Bergman, Ryan Weber and Dillon Overton set to also get their chance to pitch, Servais noted it was up to the offense to carry the team through this extended stretch.
The Mariners returned 2-4 after being swept in Toronto over the weekend.
The lack of offense was as much a culprit in losing four consecutive games to the Blue Jays as anything De Jong (five innings pitched, six earned runs), Bergman (five innings pitched, three earned runs) or Weber (3 2/3 innings pitched, one earned run before leaving with injury) did on the mound.
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De Jong will make another start Tuesday against Oakland, followed by Bergman on Wednesday. Servais said before the game Monday that the team is considering Overton, Sam Gaviglio or maybe promoting another pitcher from Triple-A Tacoma to make a spot start Thursday in kicking off a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field.
“There are going to be some ups and downs. We knew that,” Servais said. “We are kind of behind the eight ball on the experience side of things. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go out and win. But you’ve got to score runs.”
It is obviously a savvy call by Servais to put the onus on his offense, led by veterans Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, to win games — at least in the short term with Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma sidelined by various injuries.
But does it help alleviate any pitching stress for the young arms?
“Our job stays the same, no matter what anyone says,” Bergman said. “We’ve got to go out there and compete, go as long as we can and try and keep (the other team) from scoring.”
De Jong has had the longest stay in the rotation. Recalled April 26, along with Overton, he has now made three starts.
In 13 2/3 innings, he has given up 13 runs in those starts (8.56 ERA). But one of them was a stellar six-inning, one-run no-decision against Texas on May 6.
“I am trying to be a sponge,” De Jong said. “It is a lot to take in, and there is a lot to learn in every aspect of the game — how to carry yourself on the mound, the preparation between starts, how to act like a pro in the clubhouse, even how to watch the game properly.”
De Jong is always asking questions, from his clubhouse neighbor Yovani Gallard and Paxton.
“Essentially I am learning from anybody who has more time than me, so that is about everybody,” De Jong said. “Now that I’ve been up here a couple of weeks, one of the most important things I can do is have the confidence in my own abilities, and bring Chase De Jong out to the mound every time I get out there, and make sure that I bring what I can do to the opposing lineup.”
Bergman said an easy trap to fall into in the major leagues is to try and make perfect pitches to big league hitters.
“You think you have to make a better pitch than what you were making in Tacoma, or wherever you were,” Bergman said. “The fact is, if you make good pitches here, too, for the most part, you will get guys out.”
If Gaviglio gets the call Thursday, he will be the fifth starter from the Tacoma rotation to get the nod with the Mariners.
This season, that quintet has posted a 2.61 ERA starting for the Rainiers, who currently rank third in the Pacific Coast League is team pitching (3.65 ERA).
Up with Seattle, De Jong (three starts, 8.56 ERA), Bergman (one, 4.15), Overton (one, 5.06) and Weber (one, 2.45) have combined to go 0-3 with a 6.31 ERA in six major-league starts.
“I don’t feel like any of them are putting too much pressure on themselves,” Servais said. “They are learning a lot, like the value of having to execute the game plan and make pitches. And when I say make pitches, it’s not just throwing a strike – it is throwing a quality pitch to get guys out.”