Mariners Justin Dunn is turning into a key rotation piece

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 22: Starting pitcher Justin Dunn #35 of the Seattle Mariners throws against the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 22: Starting pitcher Justin Dunn #35 of the Seattle Mariners throws against the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

It wasn’t that long ago that Mariners fans were wondering if Justin Dunn was going to get a chance to be a part of the starting rotation for the team. There were a handful of guys fighting for just a few spots, and he seemed like he might be the odd man out.

He got one of the spots, and although it seems like sort of a silly reason, part of the reason the team entrusted him as a starter wasn’t for his ability, but because he was right-handed. Already heavy on lefties, they needed a second righty in their six-man rotation.

Through six starts, Justin Dunn has become a key piece in the Mariners’ rotation.

It was a rocky start for Dunn, but there was a bright spot hidden amidst the struggles. Dunn lasted just 4-2/3 innings while throwing 93 pitches and issuing an insanely high eight walks. He allowed just one hit and finished with three earned runs. The control was a worry, but he showed that when his stuff was in the zone, it was difficult for hitters to make good contact.

He would get his first (and only up to this point) win of the season in his second start. The command looked to be a worry of the past already as he would walk just two batters through five innings, breezing through the Orioles with just 68 pitches.

Justin Dunn followed it up with two great starts against teams that can pile on the runs, going five and giving up two runs and one walk against the Red Sox, then giving up three runs and two walks to the Trash-stros over 5-2/3 innings.

He pitched well against Baltimore again in his 5th start, before being removed after 5-1/3 innings, although he did give up four walks in that start, his first sign in nearly 16 innings of having any issues with control.

The most recent start was one that needs to be looked into from a deeper view. Yes, he threw 72 pitches in just 3-1/3 innings, while giving up two earned and walking three batters. IT all makes a bit more sense when you realize it was against the defending champs. The Dodgers can put fear and trepidation into a pitcher, making them try and do more than they are comfortable with. Especially when Julio Urias is on the mound, already having diced up the Mariners once before.

Heading into tonight’s matchup against the Tigers, we should expect to see something more similar to the Orioles games that Dunn pitched in. He has yet to reach six innings on the season, which would also match a career-high. He’s shown the ability to limit the walks and be more aggressive against teams with records under .500, which he should do again tonight.

Outside of that opening start, Dunn has actually notched a 3.33 ERA, good for one of the best numbers the team has been able to see from the starters. If he can start counts ahead, it won’t be a surprise to see Dunn put together one of the best starts of his young career.

Tonight’s game against the Tigers is a prime opportunity for Justin Dunn to prove that he belongs in the Mariners’ long-term plans as a starting pitcher. I can see Dunn stretching out into the 7th inning for the first time in his career, still finishing somewhere in the high 90s for pitches. It’s exactly where the team should want him to be and is a great stage for Dunn to prove he is one of the underrated studs on a young, hungry, and talented Mariners team.