After their most lopsided loss of the season — during which their bullpen gave up a season-high 11 runs — the Seattle Mariners promptly made another roster move.
Right-handed rookie David McKay was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday morning. He will become the 22nd relief pitcher the club has used in the first two months of the season.
Mike Wright, who the Mariners had acquired from Baltimore at the end of April, was designated for assignment in the corresponding roster move. He was one of four Mariners relievers to throw in Saturday night’s 18-4 drubbing by the Twins, allowing four runs.
None of the four pitchers the Mariners brought in from the bullpen finished their outing without allowing a run. Tom Murphy, the backup catcher, threw a scoreless ninth, striking out his first two major league batters, and posting the best outing of any player that took the mound for Seattle in the game.
“We knew there was going to be some turnover in our bullpen as we kind of sorted through some things, and we went through some injuries early,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Some relievers — like closer Hunter Strickland — are working through extended stays on the injured list. Sam Tuivailala is on the mend in Tacoma, but hasn’t pitched for the Mariners since last fall.
As different pitchers, some acquired during the season, others after promotions from the minors, have cycled through the bullpen without defined roles, the Mariners have consistently struggled.
“Right now, like I’ve said all along, it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and try to grab hold of it,” Servais said. “Some guys have, other guys have struggled to throw strikes and put people away. It is one area we knew we were going to have some churning through to figure it out. We’re just in a tough spot right now. We’re struggling.”
Entering Sunday, the Mariners’ bullpen had the third-worst runs allowed average (2.5 per game) in the majors, trailing only the Orioles (2.7), who have the worst record in the American League, and division rival Texas (2.53).
Seattle’s bullpen had given up more total runs (120) than every team in baseball except Baltimore (123) entering the day, and was one of just six relief pitching staffs in the majors that had allowed 100-plus runs.
The only three Mariners relievers with an ERA of less than 3.00 were Brandon Brennan (2.31), Roenis Elias (2.78) and Connor Sadzeck (2.41).
“We try to make adjustments and have a plan going forward,” Servais said. “You run into teams that are hot. Certainly the Twins are swinging the bat really well right now. You’ve got to make some adjustments pitching-wise. Sometimes it’s the actual pitches you’re throwing, sometimes it’s your mental how you’re attacking them.
“Relievers all have their certain style of how they’re going to go in and attack hitters, but you have to attack. You have to stay on the attack and be the aggressor on the mound.”
Servais also noted the inexperience the Mariners have in the bullpen, including McKay, who has spent the majority of the season with the Rainiers. He was 2-0 with a 5.91 ERA in 21 1/3 innings across 14 relief appearances with Tacoma.
“He had a pretty good spring training,” Servais said. “He does it a little bit differently. He’s got a decent breaking ball. He’ll pitch up in the zone with the fastball, and he has thrown strikes.”
Should Wright clear waivers, the Mariners would likely send him to Tacoma to continue to work on adjustments their pitching coaches have started making with him. He compiled a 9.00 ERA in 11 innings across seven relief appearances with Seattle.
“I thought Mike was really open to a lot of things our pitching guys have thrown at him,” Servais said. “He’s made some strides. ... If he clears waivers we’d like to have him back. He’d go to Tacoma and continue to work on the things we threw at him.
“He’s starting to get his stuff back. This is a guy who’s thrown upper 90s at certain points of his career and is starting to get back up there.”