Mariners reliever draws Paul Sewald comparisons from Scott Servais

As the Mariner bullpen keeps taking hits, a newcomer has a great shot at cracking the opening day roster. If he can find a new way to tap his potential in Seattle like many relievers before him have, he might just force the Mariners to keep him around after key members return from injury. So who is he anyway?
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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So before anybody starts to panic, remember that all of the elite relievers in this bullpen who are currently injured are slated to return sooner rather than later. Matt Brash will likely begin the season on the 15-day IL and is currently playing catch from 90 feet.

Newly acquired Santos was shut down Monday morning with a mild lat strain. Mariner GM Justin Hollander told the media the next day that “he will not be ready for opening day”. Jackson Kowar has a Tommy John lined up so unfortunately he won’t return this season. Eduard Bazardo has yet to throw a spring pitch. That’s 4 spots in an 8 man pen that are sitting open for now.

Enter Tyson Miller.

Tyson Miller: From Fourth Rounder to baseball journeyman

Tyson got drafted into the Chicago Cubs organization in 2016, debuting with them four years later but only pitched five innings and gave up 3 earned runs. He then bounced around up and down across 26 more major league innings and four different teams. Last year he got in 10 games, giving up eight runs, walking six, and striking out 10 over 15 and one-third innings. This feels very much to me like a guy who has not been given a real shot to stick anywhere and show what he can do. In November, the Mariners saw potential and signed him to a minor league deal. 

If we go back to 2020 when Tyson was a prospect in Chicago, it becomes more clear why Seattle might want to take a chance on him. Miller’s fastball control and his “innate ability to…cut, sink and ride the pitch seemingly at will” are highlighted. Back then Miller was seen as a starting candidate but a probable convert to the bullpen in a swing or spot start capacity. He’s six feet four inches and described as sturdy. Workload issues haven’t ever arisen or been tested. 

Mariners know the importance of the swing

If you’ve watched the way Scott Servais has managed his bullpen you probably know that when he talks about high-leverage situations he doesn’t just mean the ninth or even eighth innings. Brash was routinely used much earlier than that to put out fires in the middle innings to keep us ahead or close. That kind of high leverage swing role won’t be Tyson Miller’s job on this team.

What I envision for him is coming on when we have a lead and are monitoring pitch counts for young starters. Tyson could eat sixth and seventh  innings fairly routinely that don’t involve imminent disaster. Saving innings on the arms of Bryan Woo, Bryce Miller, and George Kirby will be crucial to September's success that eluded Seattle last season. 

Tyson’s velocity will sit well below the starters he follows. He typically sits in the low 90s with his fastball. The ability to make one pitch effectively look 4 different ways to a hitter that’s been geared up for 98+ all game could be a potent way to miss barrels and induce weak contact. His frame and reliance on being deceptive rather than overpowering means he can be asked to pitch in longer stints if needed such as a starter leaving early.

It sounds a bit patronizing to characterize a pitcher as one whose primary contribution is keeping workloads down across your staff. Tyson can certainly be more than just that, but the value of a competent swing pitcher is huge and real. Many of Tyson’s competitors for bullpen spots are of the overpowering short-outing type. 

Pitcher

MLB Starts

Tyson Miller

3

Mauricio Llovera

1

Collin Snider

1

Competition for Opening Day and beyond

Currently, the Mariners have Muñoz, Speier, Saucedo, Voth, Thornton, and Stanek as probable opening day bullpen arms. Four men are currently on the 40 man roster competing with Tyson for the final two spots. Mauricio Llovera has the most career MLB innings logged with 59. 35 of them came last year for the Giants and Redsox.

Collin Snider is the next most senior man at 54 and two-thirds innings across 2 seasons with Kansas City.  Cody Bolton hurled 21 and a third for the Pirates in his debut season last year. In the same campaign, Carlos Vargas tasted his first big league action with Arizona for four and two-thirds frames. A ton of non-roster guys are in the same position as Tyson trying to unseat one of those four on the 40-man and ultimately the 26-man opening day roster. 

The eventual returns of Brash, Santos, and Bazardo will make it very difficult to stay in Seattle for anybody not named Muñoz, Stanek, Speier, or Saucedo. The time to make an impression and become invaluable is now for everybody else including Tyson Miller, who is out of minor league options. If he hopes to avoid a repeat of the 2023 season that saw him going team to team on and off the waiver wire then he needs to be the next diamond in the rough for Scott Servais’ bullpen.

"He has a lot of release point characteristics, pitch characteristics that Paul Sewald had as far as how he does it"

Scott Servais
Paul Sewald
Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

If Miller can come anywhere near the production of Paul Sewald he’s certainly going to make it hard to waive him. Servais making such a comparison along with him not yet allowing an earned run in four spring innings bodes well for the Fairfield California native. Keep checking back as the roster is cut down before opening day to see how Tyson fares.

Lots of love and Go Mariners!