Seattle Mariners: Hunter Strickland will save 40 games
Although Hunter Strickland has experienced a tight back in Spring Training, he should be good to go by Opening Day. When the 2019 season begins, the Mariners’ new closer will have a career year. Hunter Strickland will break out and save 40 games, 26 more than last year.
What great timing for a comeback year as well after playing only 49 games last year from a self-inflicted hand fracture. And there’s no risk this season of hitting Bryce Harper again since the Mariners don’t play the Phillies this year. Hopefully Strickland keeps any emotional problems in the bullpen this year.
With that aside, Strickland is ready for the role of closer because the Giants appointed him as ninth inning man before his injury. They trusted him in the bullpen and he paid his dues as a late-inning reliever for four years. In other words, he worked his way up through his homegrown organization.
For those of you skeptics, don’t you worry about Strickland’s postseason career. To say he struggled would be an understatement. In the 2014 playoffs, he wasn’t exactly the cherry atop the Giants’ title season. He allowed six home runs overall with a 7.50 ERA, including back-to-back home runs in the NLDS and two to Bryce Harper alone. But you know why he struggled? He was a rookie and he wouldn’t be the first to get flustered come playoff time.
His 2016 NLDS didn’t exactly help his cause as he allowed the go ahead, series clinching single to Javier Baez to cap a huge ninth inning choke against the eventual champion Cubs. Guess what, Hunter? For at least this season, you can forget about any big postseason moment to worry about. You’re not closing for the Yankees, you’re closing for a team still trying to find themselves.
Don’t think about being the Mariners’ star closer. To take pressure off, consider 2019 the year to return to full physical form and work out kinks. When you’re on the mound, just have fun and go get those 40 saves. Former middle relievers becoming closers has worked out in the past.
Remember George Sherrill as the Orioles closer in 2008? After not even reaching a setup role with the Mariners, Baltimore appointed him closer and he went on to save 31 games after only four combined career saves up to that point. Sherrill thrived under a change of scenery and so will Strickland.
Or speaking of 40 saves, what about JJ Putz in 2007? That was only his first season as full-time closer just like Strickland’s situation. The Mariners will be Strickland’s breakout team and launching pad. Yes, 2019 will feature 40 saves from Strickland and the Mariners will flaunt their second All-Star closer in as many seasons.