General manager Jack Zduriencik is stockpiling arms like a man putting up wood for the winter – and the Seattle Mariners are hoping one or two of them wind up on the roster.
After snaring injured pitchers like closer Chad Cordero and left-handed specialist Tyler Johnson, Zduriencik on Tuesday reached into the past and signed one-time closer Jeff Zimmerman to a minor league contract.
"We might have the best extended spring training staff ever assembled," Zduriencik joked.
In Zimmerman, the Mariners are taking a look at a 36-year-old right-hander who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2001, when he saved 28 games for Texas. The next spring, Zimmerman was hurt – and since then has undergone two 'Tommy John' surgeries to reconstruct his right elbow.
"He was working out for a few teams and (director of professional scouting) Carmen Fusco saw him and was very impressed," Zduriencik said. "We all watched him a little later – my staff and I, Don Wakamatsu and his staff – and he threw very well. The ball came out of his well, his arm was strong, we just said 'wow' to each other.
"Jeff was touching 90 mph, and he'd only been throwing again for two weeks. He had a history with (bullpen coach) John Wetteland and the desire to play here. So we signed him and sent him to Arizona."
What's the plan for Zimmerman?
"He's going to go on a program that will get him ready to pitch for us this year," Zduriencik said. "No promises were made, but this pitcher was really good at one time. We'll see what we have.
"Our doctor was surprised at what he saw during the physical – I think he expected more problems. He passed his physical. For the next month or so, Zimmerman will be on his own schedule rather than join a team."
In a game that demands more pitching depth than any team seems to have, Zduriencik has spent all spring grabbing arms, most of whom are in the minor leagues at the moment – Jesus Delgado, Luis Munoz, Luis Pena, Cordero, Johnson and now Zimmerman have all been signed since February.
"If one or two of these guys work out, you've greatly improved your pitching depth," Zduriencik said. "In guys like Johnson and Cordero and Zimmerman, you've got experienced late-inning guys. In the others, you have power arms. We'll see how it works out, but the goal from Day One here was to improve this team, and we continue trying to do that."