Seattle Mariners: History of Starting Pitchers, Part 1
The Big Unit, Hanson, and the 90’s
Randy Johnson, better known as the “Big Unit,” was acquired in May 1989 for Mark Langston. That season, Johnson had a below-average for the Mariners. His record was 7-9 in 22 starts with an ERA of 4.40. He pitched for the Mariners from ’89 to 1997.
Johnson’s three best years for the Mariners were 1993, when he went 19-8 with an ERA of 3.24 along with a team record 308 strikeouts; 1995, when he went 18-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts; and in 1997, going 20-4 with an ERA of 2.28 with 291 strikeouts. In 1996, Johnson only started 8 games because of a back injury.
Erik Hanson had the best year of his career in 1990, making 33 starts with a record of 18-9, an ERA of 3.24, and 211 strikeouts. In six seasons with the Mariners, he had a record of 56-54 with a solid 3.69 ERA. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on November 2, 1993, with Bret Boone for reliever Bobby Ayala and catcher Dan Wilson.
The Mariners brought up another young left-handed pitcher: 22-year-old Dave Fleming. He had two great years for the Mariners. In his rookie season in 1992, he had the best record on the Mariners staff at 17-10 with an ERA of 3.39 in 33 starts.
In 1993, he had another good year, going 12-5 with an ERA of 4.36 in 26 starts. After that season he came down with arm trouble and was never the same from that point forward. The Mariners traded him on July 7, 1995, to the Kansas City Royals. It was his last year in the major leagues at the age of 25.
On December 3, 1992, the Mariners signed right-hander Chris Bosio, who had pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers. He pitched for the Mariners from 1993 through 1996 – his last year in the major leagues. Bosio made his presence known early for the Mariners, pitching a no-hitter on April 22, 1993, against the Boston Red Sox.
His record in 1993 was 9-9; however, he had his lowest ERA, 3.45, in his four years with the Mariners. In 1995, the year the Mariners finally made the playoffs for the first time, he had a record of 10-8 with an ERA of 4.92 while starting 31 games. He started two games in the playoff series the Mariners won over the New York Yankees but he didn’t get the victory in either one.
The Mariners acquired pitcher Andy Benes at the trading deadline for the push in 1995. He didn’t have a great ERA at 5.86; however, he started 12 games with a record of 7-2. He started game 2 and 5 in the series against the Yankees in the playoffs and game 4 against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship series. The Mariners lost two of the three games Benes pitched in the playoffs. He signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals the next season.
In 1996, the Mariners had the second best record in the American League West at 85-76. The winningest pitcher on the staff that season was Sterling Hitchcock, whom the Mariners had picked up when they traded reliever Jeff Nelson and first baseman Tino Martinez to the New York Yankees. It was the only season Hitchcock pitched for the Mariners. They traded him to the San Diego Padres during the off-season. He had a record of 13-9, but had a terrible ERA of 5.35 in 35 starts.
The Mariners picked up Bob Wells from Yakima, Washington off of waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies on June 30, 1994. He spent most of his time pitching long relief for the Mariners, though he did start 16 games in 1996. He had his best record that season at 12-7 with an ERA of 5.30. The Mariners released Wells after the 1998 season. He ended up pitching in relief for the Minnesota Twins from 1999 through 2002.