The Seattle Mariners have seven weeks to go in the season. The question is what should they do about the starting pitching the rest of the way.
Since they are rebuilding and won’t make the playoffs for sure they need to look toward next season. In my opinion, only Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi should be in the rotation along with three others. The pitching should be aimed toward next season, though Felix Hernandez could make a couple of appearances if he can get healthy.
There is a possibility the Mariners may go to a six-man rotation as well. Gonzales has pitched in 25 games this season while he threw in 29 games a year ago. Right now, going with five starters, Gonzales would have the same amount of starts at the end of August. Also, he has only 20 innings to go to match last year as well. In September, if they were to go with six starters, Gonzales would have four more starts giving him 33 on the season. So this might be a good idea to go this way.
If Kikuchi pitches the rest of the way in a five- or six-man rotation, he will have one less start than Gonzales. He currently has pitched in 24 games. Also, he has gone 23 fewer innings than Gonzales.
With the departure of Mike Leake at the trading deadline, the other two starters are Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, though they may come out of the bullpen with openers going instead. So the Mariners have an open spot in the rotation. With the recent days off the Mariners have had they haven’t needed to use another starting pitcher in Leake’s spot until this weekend when they face the Toronto Blue Jays.
There is a good chance they will call up Justus Sheffield from Double-A Arkansas or use the bullpen by committee. At some point, we will see both Sheffield and Justin Dunn in the rotation, perhaps as soon as September for the latter.
LeBlanc did not pitch very well when he came off the Injured List on May 18 as far as starting goes. In three starts in May he went 0-2 with an ERA over 10.00. In June, the Mariners decided to go with the opener. LeBlanc had more success with the opener, going 3-0 in five appearances with an ERA of 3.54.
In July, LeBlanc made six appearances with two starts. In the two starts, he gave up six runs each while losing both games. For July he had an ERA of 4.99. In August he has come in the game after the opener with mixed results. I expect the Mariners will continue using the opener when LeBlanc makes an appearance.
Milone has had problems coming in as the opener, especially as of late. Milone began the season in Tacoma; however, he was promoted three days after LeBlanc came off the injured list on May 21.
In June, Milone started two games while coming in four others after an opener. He had some success, though he had a record of 0-1; however, Milone had an ERA of 2.81. In July, Milone didn’t pitch well at all. He pitched in 5 games, only starting once against the Rangers in Seattle.
In his two appearances so far in August, Milone hasn’t done well either, losing both games with an ERA over 7.00. With his future in question, I am not sure how much longer he will pitch for the Mariners anyway.
LeBlanc’s time in Seattle could end this season as well, as the M’s can choose not to pick up his club option.
Along with Sheffield and Dunn, Felix could see some starts in September. Whether the opener role continues next season will have a lot to do with the success or lack of in September.