The Mariners made just two additions last offseason to a bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball a year ago.
First, in January, they signed relief pitcher Joe Beimel to a minor-league contract. Beimel was 36 at the time and hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2011.
Second, in February, they agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with Fernando Rodney, a veteran closer who had at least 37 saves in each of his past two seasons.
But those two additions allowed the rest of the Mariners bullpen to fall into place, and the result has been a complete turnaround from the year before. Rodney is second in the American League in saves and has solidified a closer role that was a weakness for the Mariners last season. Beimel is a lockdown left-handed specialist; lefties are hitting just .150 against him.
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“We added two veterans in Joe Beimel and Rodney, and everybody else was able to be slotted into probably their proper roles where they weren’t overexposed and overused,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “As a result, they’ve been fantastic.”
The bullpen leads the AL in ERA and is one of the main reasons the Mariners are still in contention this season.
Consider these numbers:
• 2013: The bullpen ranked 29th in the majors with a 4.58 ERA.
• 2014: The bullpen ranks second in the majors with a 2.36 ERA.
• 2013: The bullpen pitched the 10th most innings in the AL.
• 2014: The bullpen has thrown the third fewest innings in the AL.
• 2013: The bullpen walked the second-most batters in the AL.
• 2014: The bullpen has allowed the fourth-fewest walks in the AL.
The bullpen was overworked last season, but Seattle’s starting pitching has been so good this season that the bullpen has remained fresh. McClendon has helped that by carrying an extra reliever at times this season.
Mariners relievers have made more appearances this season than they did a year ago, but they’ve pitched shorter outings because McClendon has been able to match up with opposing hitters late in games.
The glaring exception, McClendon said, was during Seattle’s eight-game losing streak in April. The Mariners had five starts that didn’t make it into the sixth inning, including three that didn’t make it out of the fourth.
• Roenis Elias will pitch Wednesday for Class AAA Tacoma. He’ll then rejoin the Mariners for the series in Philadelphia.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org