The Tacoma-to-Seattle bullpen shuttle appears headed back to a full-time schedule this month as the Mariners try to nurse a suspect rotation into September, when rosters can expand to as many as 40 players.
Manager Scott Servais acknowledged a need Thursday to keep his rotation — with James Paxton as the sole exception — on a short leash as the Mariners continue their postseason push.
“We can’t just lean on those guys to go out there and give us six innings,” Servais said. “I think you have to be a little more aggressive (in going to the bullpen).
“I think you’ll see us a (return) to where we were in May, when you saw some shuffling between (Triple-A) Tacoma and here. If you’re running through our length guys in the bullpen, you’re going to have to go get some fresh guys.”
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Right-handers Casey Lawrence and Emilio Pagan are currently sharing duty as the bullpen’s long reliever. One or the other pitched in six of the last eight games.
Other than Paxton, the Mariners haven’t had a starting pitcher work six or more innings since July 28. The bullpen logged 17-2/3 innings over the past four games since Paxton worked six innings Aug. 4 at Kansas City.
Keeping fresh arms available became more difficult because of the recent trade that added first baseman Yonder Alonso from Oakland.
Alonso replaced injured reliever David Phelps on the 25-man roster, which means the Mariners are now operating with a seven-man bullpen after carrying eight relievers for much of the season.
The Mariners made 23 personnel moves in May that either added or removed a relief pitcher from their 25-man roster.
Any shuttle is likely to involve the eight pitchers on the club’s 40-man roster who are currently pitching in the minors: Dan Altavilla, Zac Curtis, Chase De Jong, Ryan Garton, Sam Gaviglio, Andrew Moore, Max Povse and Thyago Vieira.
“We have to take that same mentality,” Servais said. “And understanding that without (strong) starting pitching, it’s really hard to put six-, seven-, 10-game winning streaks together. But that doesn’t stop you from winning series.”
The Mariners have the American League’s best record since the All-Star break at 16-9. They entered Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels with a one-game lead over Kansas City and Tampa Bay in the race for the final wild-card spot.
“That will be the theme going forward,” Servais said. “‘Just win the series.’ Look up at the end of August and, hopefully, we’ll be in a good spot. Obviously, in September, you can expand the rosters and go from there.”
Catcher Tuffy Gosewisch is staying in Tacoma.
The Mariners sent Gosewisch, 33, to Triple-A Tacoma, where he had been playing, on an outright assignment after he cleared waivers.
Gosewisch, 33, was designated Aug. 6 for assignment when the Mariners needed to clear space on their 40-man roster after acquiring reliever Ryan Garton in a trade from Tampa Bay. Garton was optioned to Tacoma.
The Mariners obtained Gosewisch from Atlanta in a Jan. 26, 2017 waiver claim. He spent most of the season at Tacoma, where he is batting .219 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 65 games. He was 2-for-28 in 11 big-league games in May.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners