Seattle Mariners

Colome, Diaz dominate. But Mariners still searching for middle-relief solutions in bullpen

Seattle Mariners right-handed reliever Adam Warren walks off the field after being removed during the seventh inning of the team’s baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Seattle Mariners right-handed reliever Adam Warren walks off the field after being removed during the seventh inning of the team’s baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) AP

The Seattle Mariners can typically close out the game if they have a lead entering the eighth inning. That’s how reliable and dominant right-handers Alex Colome and Edwin Diaz have been and their combined 145 saves over the past two seasons.

Yes, 145 … Colome led the American League with 47 saves a season ago with the Tampa Bay Rays (12 combined this year) and Diaz leads this year with 52 plus the 34 he had last year.

But the Mariners issue continues to be the inconsistency of those middle-relief innings, and it’s not for lack of options.

Mariners manager Scott Servais on Wednesday said they’ll dig even deeper to give other relievers opportunities in those sixth-seventh inning bridge frames, including Triple-A Tacoma call-ups Shawn Armstrong, Ryan Cook and Chasen Bradford.

This comes one night after Servais used right-handers Adam Warren and Nick Vincent along with lefty Zach Duke after Wade LeBlanc through six scoreless innings. Those three combined to allow four runs on 38 pitches in the seventh inning of a 5-3 loss to the Orioles.

“As things have evolved here, a couple of guys have struggled a little bit and we have to look at giving other guys a chance,” Servais said. “Whether it’s Armstrong, Cook, Bradford – try to mix it up a little bit. We try to get these guys going and it just hasn’t been able to get going in a positive direction.

“They’ll all pitch, but we’ll be a bit more flexible in how they help us out.”

The Mariners have a collective 5.19 ERA from relievers in the seventh inning of games this season, which is the sixth highest for that inning of any bullpen in the major leagues this season.

Outside of Colome, the rest of the Mariners bullpen additions have so far had little success, especially compared to their track records.

Juan Nicasio was supposed to be that eighth-inning arm until the Mariners acquired Colome. Then he was slotted for that seventh-inning role until his struggles and then recent knee surgery ended his season with a 6.00 ERA in 42 innings pitched.

Then the Mariners acquired Sam Tuivailala from the St. Louis Cardinals to complement Nicasio. ‘Tui’ looked good until he tore his Achilles tendon, whcih required season-ending surgery last month in Texas.

Nicasio and Tuivailala, especially, were the power arms that the Mariners just don’t have much of anymore.

“Losing (Nicasio) and we bring in Tui and that goes south with the injury – it’s been frustrating,” Servais said. “And trying to get the right guy going.”

Vincent allowed a double that scored a run Tuesday night, but he’s been better over the past month-plus, allowing six runs in 17 1/3 innings (3.12 ERA) with 18 strikeouts and a .164 opponent batting average. He had a 4.65 ERA over 31 innings with a .254 opponent average entering August.

But the Mariners acquired Warren and Duke before the trade deadline to fill in that role, as well.

Since arriving, Warren has allowed eight runs in 13 innings (5.54 ERA) after a 2.70 ERA with the Yankees over 30 innings. Duke, their lefty specialist, has especially struggled. He’s allowed seven runs and nine hits over eight innings pitched (7.88 ERA) after a 3.62 ERA in 37 1/3 innings with the Twins.

Fight aftermath

A day after players were heard, and briefly seen, shoving, shouting and cursing at each other in the Mariners’ clubhouse prior to Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, players and coaches remained mum on the details.

Dee Gordon had fasked media to exit the clubhouse before the doors closed and the altercation ensued (though it escalated to the point players were shoved into the doors, briefly re-opening them).

Gordon shrugged off the incident.

“I wasn’t here, so I don’t know,” he said, sarcastically.

He was reminded that he was the one who asked media to leave.

“We’re all good,” he said. “We get to play baseball.”

Servais was on MLB Network radio earlier Wednesday and said he spoke with “the guys involved.”

“Guys are a little frustrated,” he said. “Obviously we haven’t played great in the second half at all, and sometimes those things are kind of reach a boiling point.

“It’s something that happened, we’ll put it behind us and move forward.”

Gonzales close

Left-hander Marco Gonzales said he feels close to returning after a 20-pitch bullpen session went well on Monday. He’ll have another bullpen on Thursday’s off day before the Mariners decide whether to bring him back into the rotation.

The hope, Servais said, was that he could be ready to pitch Sunday’s series finale against the New York Yankees or early in the two-game series after that against the San Diego Padres. James Paxton will start Friday’s series opener against the Yankees and Felix Hernandez will start Saturday.

“It was great,” Gonzales said. “Really good step forward and very positive about everything that happened. Taking it day by day but took a step forward.”

He reiterated that nothing was hurting in his arm, but he’s on the 10-day disabled list because of a muscle strain in his neck. But the time off has also allowed him to fine tune some mechanical issues, as well, after posting a 10.35 ERA over his past four starts.

The Gonzaga University graduate had a 3.37 ERA over 21 starts before that.

“You always want to try to fine tune,” Gonzales said. “But to take a step back and kind of build and reset your foundation a little is really a positive thing.”

Gordon in Auburn

Gordon was much more open talking about a charity event he’ll be part of in Auburn on Monday, though he joked that he wasn’t exactly sure if heading to Auburn meant it would be Auburn University – the one in Alabama, not the town on the edge of South King and Pierce counties.

The Mariners’ second baseman/centerfielder/shortstop will be at the Auburn Dave and Buster’s on Monday raising money for his Striking Out Poverty campaign as part of Food for the Hungry, for which he already pledged to donate $200 for every steal he has this year (currently 30).

Gordon said he’s also trying to see if some Seattle Seahawks players will be there.

General admission entry is $40. And Gordon said he’d be up for playing some fans in the Pop-A-Shot games.

“I’ve been getting my jump shot ready,” he said.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill
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