Are the Mariners a Bullpen Arm Short?

Cleveland Guardians v Seattle Mariners
Cleveland Guardians v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The construction of a major league bullpen has changed over the years. Everyone seems to throw 95+ with ridiculous off-speed (see Matt Brash). Some managers implement a fluid strategy where relievers are assigned 'pockets in the lineup' instead of innings. The Cleveland Guardians, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays are just a few organizations that subscribe to this approach. While it is an innovative way to balance your bullpen, injuries or poor performance can derail the strategy quicker than an incoming Andres Munoz fastball.

The Mariners have seen Diego Castillo and Matthew Festa (both currently in Tacoma) regress from their 2022 seasons. But that is to be expected because bullpen arms are fickle. What impacted Manager Scott Servais' fluid strategy is Andres Munoz being on the shelf. The 23-year-old relief ace is typically lined up against significant threats in the opposing lineup. What does that mean? Munoz tackles the middle of the order. For example, the past two series would've seen Munoz on the mound late against Philly sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos or Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr, and AL batting average leader Matt Chapman.

All those hitters had solid and, in some cases, spectacular series against the Mariners, contributing to the team's 2 – 6 record on this road trip. Team officials say Munoz will start a rehab assignment soon. Unfortunately, there is no telling how many appearances he'll need to get up to speed, but if I'm ball-parking it, we probably won't see Munoz until mid-next week.

Additionally, Chris Flexen is occupying a bullpen role as pitching coach Pete Woodworth and the Mariners' analytics teamwork to get his offspeed pitches on track - specifically, his slider, which ranked as one of the best pitchers in the AL last year (29% whiff rate). The team could choose to call up Bryce Miller to fill Flexen's spot in the bullpen at some point, but for now, we're hanging on for dear life in the late innings, which isn't an enviable position to be in with heated rival Houston coming to town.