Insert Witty Bullpen Subject Line Here

This spring has been quasi entertaining so far.But let’s face it we’re all ready for the games to start meaning something. I know I am. So let’s take a look some things that actually mean something to the Season. Looking at the players in camp right right now, the Mariners are most likely going with a four man bench. Giving you a total of 13 position players and a 12-man pitching staff.

The rotation is pretty set and isn’t horrible looking.

1- Felix Hernandez
2- Erik Bedard
3- Doug Fister
4- Jason Vargas
5- David Pauley/Luke French

People may ask why I have Fister in front of Vargas. I seem to remember there being some thing between the Mariners organization and not wanting to pitch lefties back-to-back games. Maybe that’s correct, maybe not. No, question that Vargas is the better pitcher. So really you can flip-flop those around.

Personally, I have a hard time believing that Michael Pineda is going to make the Major League staff out of Spring Training. If only to give him a controlled environment and keep his innings down while in Tacoma. It also gives him a chance to work more on his change-up to elevate some of those splits.

That pretty much leaves us with either Pauley or French as the fifth starter. Really, I’m alright with either. French has potential to be a 5th starter and a successful one in Safeco field. But his velocity has dropped tremendously in the past 18 months and I’m not sure as to the cause. If he can find some how rediscover that lost zip and use his slider more often and effectively, he should be good #5 guy.

You all know how I feel about Pauley by this time. Ultimately no shockers here.

That leaves the bullpen and 6 guys. Why 6 and not 7? Because who ever doesn’t make the 5th starter most likely makes the team as the mop-up guy. That’s just assumed at this point. However, French does have an option and it wouldn’t hurt him to start out in AAA. But for now I’m assuming French is with the major league pitching staff.

So here are the 6 in my bullpen.

The obvious one is of course Brandon League as the interim closer.

Then you have the set-up spot and I’m not a big believer in guys that have held the job before. But Chris Ray is a pretty solid reliever with good velocity, misses some bats and gets a few ground balls. I know Ray had some issues last year which appear to come from his reliance upon the four-seam fastball and less with the slider/split finger that had made him successful. He makes my squad.

For the Lefty specialist you could make a case for either Laffey or Olson (even French too if he doesn’t make the starting staff). But the Mariners acquired Laffey for a reason and he’s shown the ability to command his pitches and looks pretty good this spring. Olson’s just blah per usual.

My three middle relievers are Josh Lueke, Justin Miller and Chris Smith. It’s hard to really get a strong feel but Josh Lueke seems ready. He’s looked and thrown really well so far. He’s spotted his fastball had some of his out pitches already working. I think he’s ready for the show. The question of course will the team be ready for the PR hit. I hope they do the right thing here and give the guy a chance.

Next in line, Justin Miller who is a strange case. Looking at the last few years he generates a solid above average amount of strikeouts and then of course he walks plenty of people. But last year he showed some improvement in his ability to consistently throw strikes and avoid walks. So far this spring he has continued to spot his fastball and it has me thinking that Miller is the next best available option.

Lastly I chose to go with Chris Smith, frankly because I did. I suppose you could make a case to go with Denny Bautista, Fabio Castro, or internal options such as Dan Cortes, Chaz Roe or Edward Paredes.

The problem I have with Bautista, despite his flashy velocity, is that he just fails to throw strikes. Castro is similar, in that he doesn’t throw a lot of strikes and then Dan Cortes is basically the a better and younger version of Bautista. The only thing about Cortes is that much like Chaz Roe and Paredes they have options where they can be sent to Tacoma used later. Cortes needs more time in the minor leagues anyways, I’m still worried about his command.

Chris Smith has shown a marked improvement in his Ball/Strike ratio last year, while still generating strike outs. He isn’t going to be flashy but I think he’s the best option going forward right now.

This leaves you with a bullpen that looks like this:

Closer – Brandon League
Setup – Chris Ray
Middle Relief – Josh Lueke
Middle Relief – Justin Miller
Middle Relief – Chris Smith
Left Specialist – Aaron Laffey
Long Relief – Pauley/French

The one problem is that it leaves you with +3 guys making the team that are Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) and room needs to be made for them on the 40-man roster.

It’s a pretty easy call for me as I’d cut both Garrett Olson and Cesar Jimenez. Olson, just hasn’t shown much promise at all in the past two years and his splits, while they are there, they aren’t very good a 4.91 FIP vs. LHB or a 5.51 FIP vs. RHB.  If someone picks them up great, if not you can reassign them to Tacoma.

As for Cesar Jimenez he just hasn’t come back to what he might have once been. It’s likely he can passed through waivers and be reassigned to Tacoma and show that he can stay healthy and still be of value. I know he’s Felix’s buddy so that makes this harder. But I don’t see anyone grabbing him in waivers.

The last spot is made available because of Jose Flores doesn’t make the squad. I’m still a little annoyed over this pick. I still contend that someone like Wynn Pelzer or Jason Rice would have been a better choice. But, it’s really moot at this point.

A mental note on Flores is that the Mariners could and seems likely interested to at least try and keep him in the organization. I wouldn’t guarantee that it happens. But, who knows Cleveland didn’t seem interested in keeping him in the organization by electing to not place him on the 40-man. The Mariners maybe able to buy him outright and send him down to AA Jackson to start the season, in hopes that he could make the 40-man this off-season. Just a theory.

This is my bullpen. What’s yours?

Tags: Aaron Laffey Brandon League Cesar Jimenez Chaz Roe Chris Ray Chris Smith Dan Cortes David Pauley Denny Bautista Edward Paredes Fabio Castro Garrett Olson Jason Rice Jose Flores Josh Lueke Justin Miller Luke French Michael Pineda Wynn Pelzer

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