President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto, and General Manager Justin Hollander, built this team on defense and pitching, with the latter being the franchise's driving force. Despite the team's disappointing 33-34 record, the pitching staff ranks in the top 10 in many critical categories (BAA, ERA, SHO, WHIP). One thing to keep an eye on as we progress through the season is that three-fifths of the Mariners' stellar starting rotation is shoving without innings limits (Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby). That leaves rookies Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo, and the Mariners in a precarious situation.
Both Miller and Woo aren't used to taking the ball every fifth day, mainly because Minor League Baseball runs a six-game series model with Mondays off. Dipoto joined Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 yesterday and delved into how the team plans to manage the two promising hurler’s innings.
"We’ll be a little bit more reserved with Bryce. We feel like he’s built out,” Dipoto said. "He did throw a full slate of innings last year in the minor leagues, but this will be his first chance at pitching for the full major league schedule where we play the extra month. And there is an expectation of starting, in many cases, as he experienced already, on the fifth day of rest, which is the newest thing for all these kids."- Jerry Dipoto, Pres. of Baseball Ops
While Miller fired 132 innings across two levels last season, Woo's career high for innings pitched in a season is a mere 70 frames. The 23-year-old Woo has tallied 56 1/3 innings between his workload with the Arkansas Travelers and his time in Seattle. Manager Scott Servais and Pitching Coach Pete Woodworth must get creative to protect his workload.
"For the time being, because it's still relatively early in the season, we're going to let his physical crispness tell us which way to go next. We will be more, I guess, antenna up on what’s happening with Woo and any fatigue levels we see, and we will be more inclined to skip starts to move him around in a rotation to try to manage innings because we don’t want to pile it up."- Jerry Dipoto, Pres. of Baseball Ops
Marco Gonzales's return would provide a massive boost for the rotation and help the team manage these young arms across the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, the team doesn't expect the veteran southpaw back for at least another month, and that is probably being generous. Scott Servais could look to piggyback Chris Flexen on days Miller and Woo start, but Flexen’s performance has been underwhelming (7.65 ERA, -0.6 WAR).
Dipoto could look to the trade market to augment the rotation, but raising the offense is probably the number one priority at this point. Either way, it's an exciting storyline as we get deeper into the summer and the season.