HOUSTON — The move by the Mariners in late March to acquire right-handed reliever Nick Vincent from San Diego continues to grow in importance as injuries decimate the bullpen.
The latest casualty is right-hander Tony Zych, who is expected to miss four-to-six weeks because of tendinitis in his rotator cuff. He joins Joaquin Benoit, Charlie Furbush, Evan Scribner and Aaron Cook on the disabled list.
All of which is pushing Vincent, who spent the previous four years bouncing between the Padres and the minor leagues, into higher-leverage situations. So far, Vincent is delivering: a 1.50 ERA in 12 games.
"It speaks to the job our front-office guys have done in identifying players like that," manager Scott Servais said. We had some injuries in camp, bullpen-wise. So you kind of look at who is available, who is out there."
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Servais admitted he "did not know Nick Vincent" when general manager Jerry Dipoto first mentioned him as a possible acquisition target after injuries in spring training removed Scribner and Cook as right-handed bullpen options.
"Jerry filled me in quickly on (Vincent’s) track record," Servais said, "and the fact that he tried to acquire him in the past. He thought he would be a great fit for where we were.
"He’s attacked every time he comes in. He goes right after them. He knows who he is, and he executes."
Vincent, 29, brings that attack mentality and what teammate Steve Cishek calls a "nasty cut fastball" to the mound.
Even when Vincent permitted an inherited runner to score Thursday against the Astros, he followed that with a scoreless inning that set the stage for Robinson Cano’s three-run double in the ninth.
"I don’t throw around hitters," Vincent said. "I’m not a big walk guy. I might give up a home run or two, but I’m usually in there when there are guys on base.
"They call me the bulldog on the mound because I’m 5-10, 5-11 and 175 pounds. I’m not a big guy, but I’m not afraid of anybody up there."
Why Vincent couldn’t stick with the Padres is anybody’s guess. He compiled a 2.63 ERA for them in 161 games over part of four years. But the Padres made him available this spring because he was out of options, and they didn’t see a fit.
The Mariners acquired him on March 30 for a player to be named later.
"He’s been an excellent performer during the time he’s had in the big leagues," Dipoto said after making the deal. "He’s neutralized right-handed hitters over 162 outings. There’s no reason to expect that to change."
In fact, Vincent is being asked to do more. He was summoned Monday in the seventh inning of a one-run game at Oakland and retired both batters he faced in registering his fourth "hold" of the season.
"It’s a confidence booster, for sure," he said. "But by the same means, my job is not any different when he puts me in that spot. Or if (we’re) down by two. For me, it’s go out, attack hitters and get outs."
LIND AT FIRST
Even after Dae-Ho Lee hit two homers Wednesday against right-handed Oakland relievers, Servais opted to stick to his platoon plan by starting Adam Lind at first base Thursday against Houston right-hander Chris Devenski.
"We’ll get back to playing the numbers a little bit," Servais said. "(Wednesday) was a great day for (Lee). We had a hunch. We rode the hunch, and it worked out great. But we’ll get back to playing a regular lineup."
Servais admitted he didn’t know whether Lee had good career splits against right-hander pitchers while playing in Korea and Japan.
"I do know that Adam Lind has a track record in our league of hitting right-handed pitching," Servais said. "That’s what we’ll stay with. The original plan, quite frankly, is working out OK."
Not so great on Thursday, at least not for Lind. He was 0-for-4, which dropped his average to .218.
Some updates on the Mariners’ injury-depleted bullpen: Zych doesn’t have structural damage in his shoulder; Furbush will require an extensive rehab assignment; and Benoit remains on track for a bullpen workout early next week.
***Zych returned Tuesday to Seattle for a more-complete examination after the Mariners placed him the 15-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his right rotator cuff.
"There are some issues," Servais said, "but I don’t think there’s any serious structural damage. He has a sore shoulder. He has some inflammation in there. They need to quiet it down.
"It’s a special arm. We just have to get it back fully healthy. Not just so he can throw an inning, but so he can throw an inning and bounce back and be maybe available the next day, which has kind of been an issue so far this season."
***Furbush threw a bullpen recently and is up to 20 pitches in his recovery from what the Mariners characterize as biceps tendinitis. He experienced day-after tightness after spring throwing workouts and underwent blood-injection therapy.
"It’s going to be more than just two or three minor-league outings (whenever Furbush begins a rehab assignment)," Servais said. "It’s going to be a regular spring training, which could be six, eight to 10 outings."
***Benoit made five appearances this season before inflammation in his right shoulder forced him to the disabled list on April 25.
"Moving in the right direction," Servais said. "He’ll probably throw a bullpen when we get back off this road trip."
Lefty Wade Miley, who started Thursday, is one of three incoming members of the Southland Conference Hall of Honors.
Miley played three season at Southeastern Louisiana prior to his selection by Arizona in the first round of the 2008 draft. He was an all-conference pick in 2008, when he led the Southland with 119 strikeouts.
Former Southland commissioner Greg Sankey and former McNeese State football standout Leonard Smith will join Miley in the May 24 ceremony in Frisco, Texas.
They are the 47th, 48th and 49th inductees since the Hall’s formation in 1999. Miley is just the third baseball player to be honored.
Double-A Jackson outfielder Tyler O’Neill continued his recent hot streak by going 3-for-4 in Wednesday’s 11-6 victory over Jacksonville (Marlins).
O’Neill is 14-for-35 during a nine-game hitting streak, which has raised his average to .333. He also has four homers and 10 RBIs in that span, which raised his season totals to six and 19 for 22 games.
It was 34 years ago Friday — May 6, 1982 — that Gaylord Perry won his 300th career game by pitching a complete game in a 7-3 victory over the New York Yankees in front of 27,369 at the Kingdome.
Perry, now 77, was in the next-to-last season of his 22-year career in which he compiled a 314-265 record for eight clubs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
The Mariners scored six two-out runs in Wednesday’s 9-8 victory at Oakland. They entered Thursday leading the American League with 53 two-outs runs. Detroit was second with 51…the Mariners have won six straight series. They have not won seven in a row since 14-series streak in 2001…the Mariners’ plus-29 run differential, through Wednesday, was the best among AL clubs.
The Mariners and Astros continue their four-game series at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (2-1 with a 1.80 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Doug Fister (2-3, 4.60).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners