Seattle Mariners 2019 Position Preview: Relief Pitchers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Catcher David Freitas #36 of the Seattle Mariners and relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong #37 of the Seattle Mariners celebrate after a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on September 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 3-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Catcher David Freitas #36 of the Seattle Mariners and relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong #37 of the Seattle Mariners celebrate after a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on September 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 3-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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MIDDLE RELIEVERS, PART 2

SEATTLE, WA – JULY 04: Nick Rumbelow #52 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the fifth inning during their game at Safeco Field on July 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA – JULY 04: Nick Rumbelow #52 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the fifth inning during their game at Safeco Field on July 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Despite a 2018 season of injury woes and disappointment on the mound, there are still many who believe in Nick Rumbelow reaching his potential, including Seattle’s front office. Entering his third year removed from Tommy John surgery, this will be a make-or-break season for Rumbelow, who currently sits right in the middle of consensus Mariners prospect rankings.

The journey starts in Spring Training for Rumbelow, who won’t initially be guaranteed a spot in the bullpen, but may be in the driver’s seat to land a role going in. The Mariners are well aware of the potential the 27-year-old righty has, and how giving him a long look at the MLB level may prove worthwhile to them in the end. But after the hiccups of last season, it will have to be earned.

Right behind Rumbelow is Dan Altavilla, who missed the entire second half of the season with a sprained UCL. Before the injury, he got off to a decent start, notching a 10.02 K/9 and being awarded the win in three of his five decisions.

Altavilla will be one of the more intriguing storylines of Spring Training, as fans will want to keep a close eye on how the injury will affect his signature velocity moving forward. This also may be his last go of it with Seattle, as the 26-year-old flamethrower could become a prime DFA candidate if he doesn’t break camp with the team.

As is with baseball, at least one of the pitchers we’ve mentioned up until this point won’t make it the entire season. This isn’t a prediction based on the harsh realities of the sport or the occasional case of bad luck, but a statement based on the expected Summer return of Sam Tuivailala.

Acquired in advance of last year’s trade deadline, Tuivailala appeared in five games for Seattle before rupturing his achilles tendon against the Rangers on August 8. Tuivailala is expected to be present at Spring Training but won’t pitch for quite some time, but his return to the mound at some point in 2019 is inevitable.

One pitcher that may be safe, however, is Zac Rosscup. As mentioned when going over Roenis Elías, the Mariners are lacking left-handed relief depth and Rosscup’s handedness may greatly assist him in securing a spot in the bullpen. Unless he bombs in Spring Training, of course.

But Rosscup is a very interesting pitcher who misses a ton of bats and has encouraging splits against both righties and lefties. Mariners fans may recognize the name from the team’s August series with the Dodgers, in which Rosscup threw an immaculate inning in one of his two appearances.

The M’s haven’t had a southpaw with the strikeout capabilities of Rosscup, at least consistently. He’s an underrated addition from this past offseason, and looks to have the makeup of a decent trade piece with a good season come July.

In addition to all of the relievers we’ve analyzed thus far, there are reinforcements waiting throughout the various levels of the Mariners’ farm system. Don’t be surprised if Art Warren, Wyatt Mills, Sam Delaplane, Collin Kober, and even 2018 draft picks Joey Gerber and Nolan Hoffman all make an appearance for the Mariners by season’s end.

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