Seattle Mariners

Reliever Mike Wright reports to Mariners, top prospect Justus Sheffield optioned to Tacoma

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Mike Wright (43) works against the New York Yankees in the first inning of a spring training baseball game Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Sarasota, Fla.
Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Mike Wright (43) works against the New York Yankees in the first inning of a spring training baseball game Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Sarasota, Fla. AP

Continuing their carousel of roster moves this weekend, the Seattle Mariners made another expected transaction Saturday afternoon.

Right-handed reliever Mike Wright, who the Mariners acquired from Baltimore on Wednesday, reported to the club, and left-hander Justus Sheffield was optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma after working three innings in Friday night’s extra-innings win.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said he indicated to Wright that he might be needed as early as Saturday night’s third game against the Rangers. Seattle cycled through Sheffield and six more relievers Friday night after starter Yusei Kikuchi pitched just one inning in his planned abbreviated start.

Servais said most of the Mariners’ relievers would still be available against Texas — only left-hander Roenis Elias completed multiple innings, and had pitched back-to-back days — but noted Wright could have a chance to make an immediate impact.

“We’ll get him on board here and fill him in, and get a chance to look at him and see what we’ve got,” Servais said.

Wright, 29, was designated for assignment on April 21 by the Orioles, and came to Seattle in exchange for minor league infielder Ryne Ogren.

He struggled in a handful of his 10 relief appearances with Baltimore this season, and has allowed 14 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings while striking out 14 and walking seven. He compiled a 0-1 record with a 9.45 ERA.

Though, of the 14 runs Wright allowed, 13 of them came across six innings in four separate outings. He allowed just one run in his other six appearances, working 7 1/3 innings.

Wright has a career record of 10-12 with a 5.95 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Orioles since his MLB debut in 2015. He was a third round pick by Baltimore in 2011.

“You see it all the time, guys can’t quite figure it out with one team, then they go to another team and they’re outstanding,” Wright said. “So, hopefully that’s the case here.

“Every mistake I made (with the Orioles) got hit, and the good pitches were just being taken, or there just wasn’t enough of them. Hopefully this time of rest, this time to just look back and think about what it is I do well, will make a difference.”

He said he’s thrown a couple of times recently, including tossing about a 40-pitch bullpen on Wednesday.

Servais said the Mariners are looking for Wright, who has been a starter in the past and was at times working out as a starter in the spring with Baltimore, to provide longer relief in middle innings.

Servais said Wright had his pitch count up during spring training, and could function as a situational starter if needed, but will primarily come out of the bullpen.

“He’s big and he throws hard,” Servais said of Wright, who is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds. “He’s got a good arm. He has been a starter. ... The multi-inning reliever is so valuable for us and for a lot of teams, and that’s how we look to use him.

“He’s been a four-pitch guy in the past. I think he’s kind of transitioned in the bullpen, and probably focusing on two maybe three pitches, with the slider and curveball being the secondary pitches. But, I’m excited to see him, see what happens.”

Wright played alongside Mariners shortstop Tim Beckham in Baltimore last season, and said he also has ties with former Seattle reliever Shawn Armstrong — who was designated for assignment Friday — from his time at East Carolina University.

“I hope the best for him and a team’s getting somebody good if they pick him up,” Wright said of Armstrong. “He’s my best friend from college. He’s a great dude, and I was looking forward to playing with him.”

SHEFFIELD WILL BE BACK

Servais anticipates Sheffield, Seattle’s top prospect, will be back with the big league club at some point this season.

“He’s still got room to develop and things to work on,” Servais said. “He’ll be back, there’s no doubt he’ll be back in here at some point. He’s going to pitch a lot for us.”

In his Mariners debut Friday night, Sheffield allowed two runs (both earned) on two hits while walking four and striking out three in three innings of work. The only runs he allowed were on a two-run shot to center by Texas’ Nomar Mazara in his final inning.

But, as he has with Tacoma this season, Sheffield often struggled with fastball command during the outing, racking up 75 pitches (39 strikes) through the 14 batters he faced. He threw first-pitch strikes to only six batters, and eight of the batters he saw worked three-ball counts.

“I think that’s kind of been a little bit of an issue for him in Tacoma getting going,” Servais said. “The pitch counts have been up there. There are different ways to go about it. Is it a mechanical thing? Is it mindset? You’ve got to get ahead in the count, not just in this league, but for us organizationally for us it’s really important.”

Servais said getting first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of batters early will be an emphasis for the 22-year-old rookie moving forward.

“It seems like when Justus is behind in the count a little bit, he does right the ship and he can get back into the strike zone,” Servais said. “I think that mindset earlier in the count might be more productive. Let’s just get ahead — strike one. And, then if you want to get nasty after that, go ahead.”

INJURY UPDATES

Mariners veteran third baseman Kyle Seager, currently on the 60-day injured list after undergoing left hand surgery on March 12, has resumed baseball activities.

Seager, 31, has started to take grounders in the infield, and has starting hitting off a tee. He has not worked his way back into batting practice yet.

“Kyle is feeling good about it,” Servais said. “Getting his defensive work in. Got a bat in his hand now. He’ll start picking up the activity and volume of what he’s doing there as well.”

There is no specific timetable for Seager’s return. He was originally projected to miss at least six weeks of the season, and was placed on the 60-day IL on March 30.

Seager was injured during spring training, while diving for a ball that was hit down the third-base line.

Injured starter Wade LeBlanc has started playing catch, and is feeling much better, Servais said.

The 34-year-old left-hander was placed on the 10-day IL with a strained right oblique on April 14. He left midway through a start against Houston, clutching at his right side, and was shut down the next day.

Servais said LeBlanc is not feeling strain in his side at all, and will start participating in long toss before returning to the mound.

Rookie right-hander Erik Swanson has made two starts in his place, and has yet to collect a win despite a pair of solid outings.

Second baseman Dee Gordon was held out of the lineup after limping at times Friday night. Servais said Gordon is OK, but was getting a day to rest after making some physically taxing plays.

“He was diving all over the field trying to catch everything he can, so we’ll give him the day,” Servais said.

Gordon will likely return to the lineup for Sunday’s finale against the Rangers. Rookie utility man Dylan Moore replaced him at second for Saturday night’s tilt.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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