After he was mostly roughed up as a starter, Brandon Maurer appears to have found -- or is at least finding -- a niche as a relief pitcher now that he's back with the Mariners.
That's what Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Sunday morning prior to Seattle's game against the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field.
In two relief appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, Maurer has pitched three scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out six batters. Which is a positive change of pace from the 1-4 record and 7.52 ERA he posted through seven starts before being optioned to Tacoma in late May.
"I think he’s found his niche a little bit," McClendon said. "He’s very comfortable doing that. He doesn’t have to process a lot of things other than throw the ball. Whatever the catcher puts down, just throw the ball. It’s worked. We’ll see."
Maurer's success so far as a reliever creates what McClendon said is a "nice problem to have," referring to the corresponding roster move the club will have to make Monday when it recalls right-hander Taijuan Walker from his rehabilitation stint at Triple-A Tacoma.
Walker, who was expected to join the rotation earlier before battling shoulder soreness, is scheduled to make his 2014 debut on Monday when the Mariners begin a three-game series in Houston against the Astros. McClendon rattled off a few impressive statistics from Walker's rehab work -- "40-plus innings, 10 strikeouts per nine, less than two walks per nine innings" -- and said the right-hander will pitch without limitations, "other than the fact he’s a young kid and we’ll treat him like most of our other young starters and take care of him."
"I don’t know what my expectations are," McClendon said. "I’ve read and I’ve heard all the accolades. Saw a little bit of film. Haven’t seen him in competition. We’ll see. Hopefully he goes out and gives us five or six good innings and we’ll take it from there."
McClendon said left-hander James Paxton, who is recovering from a strained muscle, will throw another bullpen on Monday in Houston. He threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Friday and said afterward he felt fine. McClendon said Paxton is likely another bullpen or two away from throwing a simulated game.