After the projected opening-day Mariners’ rotation finally rounds back into good health, who knows what will come of Sam Gaviglio.
Maybe he will eventually return to Triple-A Tacoma to finish out the season. Maybe he’ll eventually move on to a new organization.
Or maybe he will be viewed as an important depth piece, remain on the 40-man major-league roster and become a pivotal swing guy for many more seasons in Seattle.
But one thing is for certain, if the Mariners somehow rally from this pit of ravaging injuries and reach the postseason, maybe they will look back at what Gaviglio accomplished during the team’s late-May road trip to Washington, Boston and Colorado as a key juncture.
His outings were by no means perfect, or even ideal. But given that he was not in major-league camp during spring training, or had ever sniffed the big leagues before, what Gaviglio gave the team in his road starts were certainly acceptable.
▪ He went six innings in Washington, giving up one earned run in a 5-1 loss to the Nationals, who are currently among the hottest-hiting teams in baseball.
▪ On Monday, the 27-year-old Oregon native not only picked up his first big-league victory (gave up five runs in five innings at Coors Field) against Colorado, he registered his first hit and scored his first run in Seattle’s three-run third inning to get the ball rolling.
The right-hander with a 3.50 earned-run average in 18 innings with the Mariners will get another home start Saturday against Tampa Bay.
Manager Scott Servais said through the course of this rough May, Gaviglio and fellow right-hander Christian Bergman have been “silver linings” in the rotation.
”Coming out of spring training ... (Gaviglio) was not in the top 10 (on the depth chart),” Servais said. “He is in our top five right now. That is where he falls.”
Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. praised Gaviglio’s fastball command to both sides of the plate.
”For a young guy ... with no major-league experience, he’s come up and really handled the situation well,” Stottlemyre said. “He’s got four pitches, and they are all pretty good. He gets in and out of at-bats quickly. And he doesn’t beat himself with walks. We feel good when he is out on the mound.”
One thing Gaviglio is accustomed to is winning games.
In his senior year at Ashland High School in 2008, he was 13-0 with a 0.60 ERA in leading the school to the Class 5A state title.
The next season as a true freshman at Oregon State University, he went 10-1 for the Beavers, and was named a freshman All-American.
And in 2011, he went nearly 42 innings without giving up a run, won another 12 games at OSU and was voted a second-team All-American.
Drafted in the fifth round by St. Louis, he was eventually traded to Seattle in exchange for infielder Ty Kelly at the end of the 2014 season.
Last season, he was part of the rotation that helped lead the Rainiers into the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
But over the winter, he struggled mightily in the Domincan League for Gigantes del Cibao, posting a 5.91 ERA.
”Mentally, some things were a little off. I had come off a strong finish in Tacoma, so I was frustrated with myself,” Gaviglio said.
What helped ease some of the angst of entering the final year of his minor-league contract was playing in the World Baseball Classic for Italy. And he fared well, too, against a Venezuela lineup that included big-league stars Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzales, giving up two runs in 4.2 innings in an 11-10 loss.
”The WBC made me realize I can play this game for fun still,” Gaviglio said.
Gaviglio also has an interesting tie to major-league lore: His grandfather’s cousin is Ralph Houk, who replaced Casey Stengel as the New York Yankees manager and won back-to-back World Series titles in 1961 and 1962.
”I didn’t even know that until I was probably going off to college,” Gaviglio said. “That is when my grandma told me. I know of him a little bit, but not a whole lot.”