Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners notebook: Diaz seeing new approach from opposing hitters

Edwin Diaz’s once-record strikeout pace has slowed as opponents try a more aggressive approach.
Edwin Diaz’s once-record strikeout pace has slowed as opponents try a more aggressive approach. AP

Cycle back two nights.

Mariners rookie closer Edwin Diaz threw just five pitches Monday in recording the final three outs in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

That came after a pair of nine-pitch innings and an eight-pitch inning in securing his three previous saves.

The word, it seems, is out.

"Scouting reports," manager Scott Servais said. "When you walk up to the plate, you know this guy throws 100 miles an hour. You’re not going to wait around. Why? The end result (of waiting) hasn’t been very good.

"Players know that. They’re going to be aggressive in going after him."

Fast forward to Wednesday.

The Angels, showing that aggression, geared up and attacked Diaz’s fastball as he tried to close out another victory. Three singles, two on fastballs, produced a run, cut the Mariners’ lead to one and helped load the bases with one out.

"My fastball wasn’t working," Diaz said. "I had to go to my slider."

He pitched out of the jam by throwing that slider — a pitch considered marginal when he arrived June 6 from Double-A Jackson. Once again, the Mariners, and Diaz, owe since-traded Joaquin Benoit a debt of thanks for his teaching assist.

That slider resulted in a 4-3 victory that amounted to a growth moment for the 22-year-old closer.

"It’s good for the kid," Servais said. "You have to go through this. It’s nice if you can go through it and not blow it. You build your confidence by knowing you can get it done."

PLANS FOR PAXTON

Lefty James Paxton reports the swelling in his forearm continues to diminish and that he remains on track to test his recovery with another bullpen workout prior to Thursday’s series finale against the Angels.

"Definitely making progress," Paxton said. "On a regular schedule. Play catch today, then a bullpen (Thursday) to get ready to start."

Paxton was hit in the elbow by a line drive on Aug. 7 in the ninth inning of a 3-1 victory over the Angels at Safeco Field. He was tracking to return Tuesday to the rotation before swelling developed in his forearm after an Aug. 13 bullpen workout.

The revised plan, barring further setbacks, is Paxton will make a rehab start Saturday or Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma against Las Vegas (Mets) at Cheney Stadium. Servais said Paxton will "get a few innings against hitters."

That will put Paxton — again, barring further setbacks — on schedule to return five days later to the big-league rotation against the White Sox in Chicago.

MIRANDA STAYS IN ROTATION

Lefty Ariel Miranda will get at least one more start, Servais confirmed, after working five strong innings Tuesday before exiting after two walks in the sixth.

Plans call for Miranda to start Sunday against Milwaukee at Safeco Field.

What comes after that might hinge on Miranda’s ability to harness a new slider as a third pitch to his fastball/change-up mix. While relievers can get by with two pitches — or even one — starters typically need at least three.

"He’s going to need it," Servais agreed. "I think it’s in there. He has plenty of fastball, and the change-up plays off of that really well. I think we can get something serviceable out of the (slider)."

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. convinced Miranda to alter his grip on the pitch in the days preceding Tuesday’s start against the Angels.

"He threw a few of them (Tuesday) night," Servais said. "Some of them backed up. Some of them actually worked. His willingness to try it is great. He’s still a fastball/change-up guy. I liked the way he threw the ball."

The Mariners acquired Miranda, a Cuban defector in 2014, from Baltimore in a July 31 trade for left-hander Wade Miley. Miranda, 27, has allowed six runs and 13 hits in 12 innings over three appearances, including two starts, since arriving

CISHEK UPDATE

Former closer Steve Cishek had a rocky inning Wednesday in his his second, and possibly last, rehab appearance Wednesday when he allowed two runs and three hits while starting for Short-A Everett against Tri-City (Padres).

Cishek is recovering from a torn labrum in his left hip, which was diagnosed after an Aug. 1 appearance against Boston. He was 2-6 with a 3.40 ERA and 25 saves in 44 appearances prior to the injury.

Club officials previously indicated Cishek could return to active duty as soon as Friday when the Mariners open a three-game series against Milwaukee at Safeco Field.

Cishek began his rehab assignment Monday by striking out the side while allowing one run and two hits in his only inning in a 5-0 loss to Salem-Keizer (Giants).

"He felt fine," Servais said. "He wasn’t real sharp. He hadn’t been out there for a while. We’ll see how he does (Wednesday) and see what we do after that."

THIRTEEN AND COUNTING

Right-hander Cody Martin became the 13th different pitcher to start a game this season for the Mariners. That last time they had 13 different starting pitchers was 1999.

The other 12: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Wade Miley, Taijuan Walker, Nathan Karns, James Paxton, Wade LeBlanc, Adrian Sampson, Vidal Nuno, Mike Montgomery, Ariel Miranda and Joe Wieland.

Martin previously became the fifth Gonzaga alum to play for the Mariners. The others were Tyler Olson, Jason Bay, Rick Sweet and Casey Parsons.

MINOR DETAILS

Marcus Littlewood and Tyler Marlette received promotions in a series of moves involving catchers in the organization. Littlewood moved to Triple-A Tacoma from Double-A Jackson, while Marlette went to Jackson from Hi-A Bakersfield.

Littlewood, 24, batted .307 with a .404 on-base percentage in 56 games at Jackson. He had no homers but collected 21 doubles and 23 RBIs.

Marlette, 23, is batting .314 since the All-Star break, which raised his overall average to .273. He also had 14 homers and 53 RBIs in 83 games at Bakersfield.

The Mariners also placed Steve Baron, 25, on the seven-day disabled list at Jackson. He was batting .280 in 66 games with three homers and 22 RBIs but hasn’t played since Aug. 4 because of an injury.

***Outfielder Daniel Robertson cleared waivers and returned to Tacoma on an outright assignment. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 12 to create space on the 40-man roster for right-hander Joe Wieland.

LOOKING BACK

It was 24 years ago Thursday — Aug. 18, 1992 — that Jay Buhner became the first right-handed hitter to hit a home run over the right-field scoreboard at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Buhner’s blast came in the fourth inning against Ben McDonald and helped the Mariners to an 8-3 victory.

SHORT HOPS

Kyle Seager’s 37 two-out RBIs through Tuesday ranked second in the majors to Cleveland’s Mike Napoli, who has 40…Nori Aoki didn’t start Wednesday because the Mariners opted for utilityman Shawn O’Malley in left field against Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs. But Aoki is batting .310 (22-for-71) in 21 games since returning from a month-long stay at Tacoma…of Mike Zunino’s 17 hits, 10 have been for extra bases (four doubles and six home runs)…the Mariners entered Wednesday at 21-22 in one-run games. Their 43 one-run games are tied with the Chicago White Sox for the most in the majors.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Angels conclude their four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (14-7 with a 3.84 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Matt Shoemaker (6-13, 4.22). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.

The Mariners return Friday to Safeco Field for a six-game homestand that begins with three games against Milwaukee before concluding with three games against the New York Yankees.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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