Mariners manager Scott Servais discussed his bullpen and the hope that more depth will lead to better results in 2016.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Among the many changes made to the Mariners’ roster by general manager Jerry Dipoto this offseason, the overhaul of the bullpen and relief pitching depth were perhaps the most dramatic.
From the season-ending 40-man roster, only lefties Charlie Furbush, Vidal Nuno and David Rollins and right-handers Tony Zych and Mayckol Guaipe remain.
The new faces feature a passel of right-handers: Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Cook, Justin De Fratus, Evan Scribner, Cody Martin and Jonathan Aro. Dipoto also brought in right-handers Joel Peralta, Casey Coleman and Blake Parker on minor-league deals for organizational depth.
From that group, Dipoto and manager Scott Servais must put together a seven-man bullpen of five right-handers and two lefties. Cishek, Benoit and Furbush are locked into spots. Nuno seems like the favorite to be the second lefty because of his versatility and ability to bounce back from extended relief outings.
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That leaves three spots for right-handers that can pitch middle relief. The determination of those final three spots won’t be easy. And how they get to that decision will be based on several things, not just spring-training performance.
“Track records weigh very heavily,” Servais said. “In spring training there are always one or two guys every year that come out of nowhere and have the great spring. They throw nine or 10 innings, don’t give up a hit and you say, ‘Who is this guy?’ You have to be a little careful of that.”
There are plenty of questions about this group of relievers. More than half are coming off down or injury-riddled seasons. Simple logic says not all of them will bounce back. The Mariners took calculated risks on “buy low” players.
“There is no perfect way to draw up a bullpen,” Servais said. “That’s why it’s so challenging every year and bullpens go from really good to really bad. You’ve seen that here the last few years. Why? How could you ever explain it?
“Last year I’m sure the Mariners thought: ‘We are locked at bullpen. We had one of the best in the league the year before. Why would we think any differently?’ Then all of the sudden something happens, guys don’t perform, you have an injury and then you look up and say, ‘Oh man, we got issues.’ ”
Issues might be a kind way to describe last season’s dumpster fire (24 blown saves, 36 losses, 4.15 ERA). It’s why the Mariners brought in a variety of arms in the offseason. In the quantity, they hope to get some quality.
“We created depth behind it,” Servais said. “There will be some very good pitchers that end up starting the season in Tacoma. They won’t be happy about it. But when games start, they know they’re just a quick call away if we have issues. We have more organizational depth at Tacoma than maybe they’ve had in the past.”
The Mariners left spring training last season with just an untested Guaipe, a struggling Dominic Leone, an injured Edgar Olmos and middling lefty Lucas Luetge as their only relief options at Class AAA Tacoma. When Tom Wilhelmsen was injured early and Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar struggled, there was little help in the organization.
Zych, De Fratus, Aro, Martin, Guaipe and Cook have minor-league options, and non-roster invitees such as Coleman, Parker and Peralta could be in Tacoma, adding depth.
• With Dipoto, Servais, bullpen coach Mike Hampton and trainers watching closely, left-hander Charlie Furbush threw a 25-pitch bullpen session. It was his second of the spring. Furbush threw at about a 90 percent effort level and mixed in breaking pitches for the first time.
“It felt good,” he said. “The next time out will be even more intense.”
Furbush last pitched in a game July 7. His biceps tendinitis and shoulder issues were later diagnosed as a partially torn rotator cuff.
• With the last of test results back and showing no signs of illness, lefty Paul Fry was cleared to participate Monday’s full workout. Fry will be monitored because he hasn’t put back on the weight he lost in January.
• Benoit has a tight hamstring and lower back. The Mariners will back off of some the aspects of the his workouts for the next few days. Benoit was scratched from his scheduled bullpen session Monday.