Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners notebook: Dipoto says club plans to ride with current bullpen

Closer Steve Cishek and the rest of the Mariners’ bullpen are trying to pull out of a rough stretch.
Closer Steve Cishek and the rest of the Mariners’ bullpen are trying to pull out of a rough stretch. AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Perhaps Thursday’s victory pulls the Mariners out of their June gloom. Either way, they show no urgency to shake up their big-league roster prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trading deadline.

"It’s not a great time to do trades really," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "but we are doing our recon, like we always do, as we prepare for July. Right now, this is our group."

One possible priority, when the market develops, is to bolster an overworked bullpen that shows signs of stress.

"The last two, two-and-a-half weeks," Dipoto admitted, "we haven’t gotten it done the same rate we did before. It’s been a rough stretch for the group in general."

That could be turning around, too.

The relief corps worked seven scoreless innings Wednesday night before Mike Montgomery stumbled in the 13th inning of a 3-2 walk-off loss to Tampa Bay. On Thursday, a three-man replay limited the Rays to one run over three innings.

"If you look at the body of work that our bullpen has done," manager Scott Servais said, "it’s very good. The number of hard-hit balls against our bullpen — we have the least amount of hard-hit contact of anybody in the league.

"For a bullpen that doesn’t run five guys out there who throw 95 (mph), we still strike them out, we still do a lot of good things. We’re just in one of those stretches where a pitch here or there has hurt us."

Before Wednesday, the bullpen had allowed 15 runs, including 14 earned, over its previous 20 innings.

Those struggles might be a a hangover effect from bailing out a rotation that had its own rough nine-game stretch from May 27 through June 4 — 47 earned runs in 45 1/3 innings.

Closer Steve Cishek embodies the bullpen. He was terrific early: an 0.98 ERA in his first 16 appearances with 11 saves in 12 chances. He then compiled a 5.40 ERA in his next 11 outings while converting just half of his six save ops.

Then came Thursday: A one-two-three inning.

The Mariners are likely to monitor Cishek and Joaquin Benoit, their primary set-up man, throughout the rest of the month. If they choose to supplement their bullpen, it will likely to be someone capable of pitching at the back end.

The problem is they don’t really see anyone currently available who represents an upgrade over what they have. (Example: San Diego is shopping Fernando Rodney, who has been in top form, but it’s hard to see a deal to bring him back.)

For now, anyway, the Mariners seem likely to stand pat.

"This group," Dipoto said, "really they’re performing to who they are. If we look from the 10,000-foot view, the individual performances — you probably couldn’t have asked for anything more. They’ve done a great job.

"In the moment, when you have a couple of blown leads — like we did (Tuesday) night, like we did on Saturday — it makes it a little bit more difficult to look at.

"The one thing we’ve done (poorly) is we have blown leads. As good as they’ve been, we’ve blown leads. Those are painful and they stick with you, but you trust the group."

SIGNINGS UPDATE

Catching up on some signings from last week’s MLB Draft:

The Mariners reached agreement with third-round pick Bryson Brigman, a shortstop from San Diego who will open his pro career this week at Short-A Everett.

Brigman received a $700,000 bonus, which is slightly below his slotted price of $708,200 as the 87th overall pick. He will join Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, the club’s first-round pick, on the AquaSox.

Lewis signed last Saturday, two days after his selection, for the slotted price of $3,286,700.

***Sixth-round pick Brandon Miller, a right-hander from Millersville, agreed to a $250,000 bonus, also a slight savings over the slot value was $283,800.

***Seventh-round pick Matt Festa, a right-hander from East Stroudsburg, agreed to a $10,000 bonus, which represented a substantial club savings over the slotted price of $212,700.

***Eighth-round pick Nick Zammarelli, a third baseman from Elon, agreed to a $150,000 bonus. The slot price was $180,600.

***10th-round pick David Greer, a third baseman from Arizona State, agreed to a $135,000 bonus. The slot price was $157,600.

The Mariners confirmed the signings of Miller, Festa, Zammarelli and Greer. All four were assigned to Everett.

Eight other signings were confirmed by the club, including five players who are heading to Everett: pitchers Michael Koval (11th round), Timothy Viehoff (12), outfielders Eric Filia (20) and Austin Grebeck (21) and pitcher Elliot Surrey (26).

Three confirmed signings were assigned to Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League: outfielder Jansiel Rivera (22), pitcher Steven Ridings (29) and second baseman Joe Venturino (36).

AMBASSADOR GRIFFEY

Ken Griffey Jr. accepted a post as a youth ambassador in a joint program between MLB and the players’ association to grow youth baseball and softball throughout the United States and Canada.

"I’m excited to be joining the Players Association and Major League Baseball as Youth Ambassador," Griffey said, "and I look forward to using my passion for the game to help inspire and encourage children to play baseball.

"I have loved the sport for as long as I can remember because it’s fun to play, and I'm going to do my best to share that with kids."

Griffey will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

MINOR DETAILS

Alex Jackson’s two-out RBI single carried Lo-A Clinton to a 2-1 walk-off victory and a double-header sweep Wednesday over Peoria (Cardinals). The sweep propelled the LumberKings into first place.

Clinton entered Thursday with a 1 1/2-game lead over Peoria in the Midwest League Western Division with six games remaining in its first-half schedule. The ’Kings also reduced their magic number to three for clinching a playoff spot.

Clinton is seeking to become the Mariners’ second affiliate to win a first-half pennant. Double-A Jackson previously clinched the crown in the Southern League North Division.

LOOKING BACK

It was 33 years ago Friday — June 17, 1983 — that Al Cowens hit what appeared to be an inside-the-park homer in the second inning against Larry Gura at Kansas City.

But Cowens, who had spent six years with the Royals from 1974-79, was called out on an appeal play for missing second base. He was credited with a single. The Mariners lost 3-1.

SHORT HOPS

Right-hander Taijuan Walker remains on schedule to start Sunday at Boston. He exited Tuesday’s game in the fourth inning because of posterior tibial tendinitis (inflammation in the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot)…center fielder Leonys Martin, who returned June 10 from a strained left hamstring, wasn’t in the starting lineup. It was mostly a precaution against playing a third straight game on turf. Plus, the Mariners were facing a left-hander in Tampa Bay rookie Blake Snell…the Mariners’ staff registered 19 strikeouts in Wednesday’s 13-inning loss. It was club record for a road game. The Mariners have had five games of 19 strikeouts or more in home games.

ON TAP

The Mariners continue their three-city trip when the open a three-game weekend series against Boston at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday at Fenway Park.

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (5-5 with a 4.10 ERA) will start against ex-Mariners lefty Roenis Elias (0-0 and 16.20). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.

Elias spent most of the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he is 4-3 with a 3.54 ERA in 10 games. His only big-league outing this year was a relief appearance April 23 at Houston, when he gave up three runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings.

The Mariners traded Elias, 27, and reliever Carson Smith to the Red Sox on Dec. 7, 2015 for pitchers Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. Elias was 15-20 with a 3.97 ERA in 51 games for the Mariners in 2014-15.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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