While the Mariners’ troubled bullpen remained in scramble mode heading into Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field, it is now a little easier to glimpse a smoother road.
Former closer Edwin Diaz resurrected his once-dominant form Friday by pitching two strong innings in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox.
It was just one outing, but it was a clear step in the right direction after the Mariners stripped Diaz from his closer duties earlier in the week following a series of shaky outings.
"A really good first step," Diaz said. "I just need to keep working. But it was a good sign. I’ve been working on staying back on the rubber, and I felt a little better."
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The Mariners believe Diaz’s problems stemmed from rushing through his delivery, which meant his arm lagged behind the rest of his body. The result was an inability to command his slider and a fastball that lacked movement.
A few bullpen sessions with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. identified the problem and implemented corrective measures, but Diaz passed a major test Friday by implementing those changes in a game.
"He was able to locate his fastball to the glove side," manager Scott Servais said. "You didn’t see it running off the plate like we’ve seen the last few times and quite a bit this spring.
"He was able to get it to the glove side. That really helps his breaking ball. He gets his hand out front, driving it, and get some depth to the breaking ball."
Diaz threw 29 pitches Friday, which meant he’s unlikely to pitch Saturday night. Further, he’ll probably get at least one more lower-leverage test outing before the Mariners put him back into the closer’s role.
But Friday allowed the Mariners to begin thinking about a restored bullpen in which their collection of setup relievers can work to bridge the game to Diaz.
"I’ll take one more good one," Servais said, "and see where we’re at."
***Saturday offered a matchup of right-handers: Yovani Gallardo (2-3 with a 4.53 ERA) against Chicago’s Mike Pelfrey (0-4, 5.70). The game starts at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Gallardo is 1-0 wit a 1.06 ERA in three career starts against the White Sox. Pelfrey is 0-1 with a 4.42 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners, but he has never faced them at Safeco Field.
***Todd Frazier is 12-for-35 (.343) in his career against Gallardo, mostly from their days in the National League Central. Jose Abreu is 3-for-7 with a homer. Melky Cabrera is 3-for-8.
***Carlos Ruiz is 9-for-29 (.310) in his career against Pelfrey, mostly from their days in the National League East. Kyle Seager is 2-for-8 with a homer. Nelson Cruz is 2-for-9.
***Mariners starters Christian Bergman, Sam Gaviglio and Ariel Miranda combined to limit opponents to one earned run in 19 1/3 innings over the last three games.
***Shortstop Jean Segura surrendered the American League batting lead Friday when his average dropped to .348 after going hitless in four at-bats. He ranks third behind Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro (.352) and Angels center fielder Mike Trout (.348).
***Cruz leads the American League with 36 RBIs, which he achieved in 43 games. The club record for the season’s first 43 games is head by Edgar Martinez with 53 in 2000.
***The first 20,000 fans through the gates get a Jay Buhner bobblehead doll, courtesy of Root Sports.
***This is the first Saturday game of the season to start at 7:10 p.m. at Safeco Field. The Mariners appear to believe it should be summer. Anyone disagree?
It was 23 years ago Saturday — May 20, 1994 — that Ken Griffey Jr. became the third youngest player in history to reach 150 career homers.
Griffey ignited a five-run first inning with a two-run blast against Roger Pavlik in a 19-2 victory over Texas at the Kingdome.
At the time, Griffey was 24 years, 180 days old. The two younger players to reach 150 homers were Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews.
The Mariners also set several then-club records in that victory: largest winning margin (17 runs), most RBIs (19) and most total bases (42).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners