As Marco Gonzales threw pitches in the T-Mobile Park bullpen while the rest of the team was preparing for Monday’s pregame workout, the possibility of the Mariners finally having a full complement of starting pitchers for their six-man rotation seemed like more than a hope.
Gonzales, on the injured list since April 29 with a left forearm strain, threw roughly 15 pitches with bullpen catcher Fleming Baez squatting in front of the plate. And while that might not seem like a lot, it was something more than he was able to do a week ago.
“It was a good step forward for sure,” he said. “Today was just kind of a prep for the week. I’ve played mound-catch a couple of times with the catcher just standing up. Today was full tilt with a catcher down. I just wanted to throw strikes, feel good in my legs and obviously feel good in my arm, and no issues there.”
The rest of the week is when Gonzales picks it up even more.
“Tomorrow is the same thing, but I would say a little bit more intensity with 15 fastballs and little more long toss beforehand,” he said. “I believe Friday is going to be 25-to-30 pitch bullpen (session), maybe simulate a couple hitters in there as well.”
The big question is when can Gonzales return to the rotation and the Mariners can stop being forced to make bullpen starts in his turn.
“I’m not for sure on the exact timeline,” he said. “The build-up takes a little bit of time here. With a bullpen of 25-30 pitches at the end of this week, I think we’re looking at the in-a-couple-of-weeks range. I’m really happy with the progress so far and the process has been really good too. As we complete each step, that’ll become a little clearer.”
Though the reasons are different, Gonzales doesn’t like seeing a group of relievers forced to fill his spot any more than fans.
“It’s not being on the mound, not helping my team win,” he said. “I feel like I kind of hang the bullpen out to dry a little bit with the bullpen day that we’re going forward with. Sitting and watching is frustrating. I was just starting to feel good too. That was another frustrating part of this was that the results were how I felt they should be and with the L.A. game and the Houston game back-to-back, I felt really confident.”
With an off day Thursday, the Mariners won’t need a bullpen start on this turn through the rotation with Justus Sheffield sliding up a day to normal rest. Seattle might only have to do one or perhaps two bullpen starts before Gonzales returns. Manager Scott Servais said right-hander Robert Dugger will likely serve as the starter for those outings with an increased pitch count moving forward.
Bishop claimed off waivers by Giants
Outfielder Braden Bishop was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants after being designated for assignment Thursday. He joins his younger brother, Hunter, a former first-round pick and top prospect in the Giants organization.
Bishop, 27, was a third-round selection out of the University of Washington in the 2015 MLB draft. A speedy outfielder that had solid success in the minor leagues, he was never able to replicate that in the big leagues. His best chance to showcase himself came in 2019 when multiple outfielders were sidelined due to injury. However, Bishop suffered a lacerated spleen after taking a 95-mph fastball to his side just days before his call-up. Unaware that he was so seriously injured, Bishop played for seven innings before being forced to leave the game.
He has played in 47 MLB games, posting a .133/.188/.156 slash line with two doubles, eight RBIs, five walks and 33 strikeouts in 99 plate appearances.
He made his mark off the field with his campaign for awareness about early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, which took the life of his mother, Suzy, at age 59 after a five-year battle. His 4MOM campaign started while he was playing at Washington and grew during his time with the Mariners.
“Outstanding young man,” manager Scott Servais said. “Really from the first time I ever met Braden and understanding what he was going through off the field in the situation with his mom and the Alzheimer’s disease and how active he was. I really enjoyed being around him. I thought he added a lot in our clubhouse, even though he was here only for a limited time. … He’s just an awesome teammate, I guess is the best way to put it. ”
Bishop put out a statement on his Twitter account, saying in part:
“Seattle, it was the pleasure of my life to represent your city and organization. I am grateful for so many things and so many people. I tried to represent the city the best I could. Truly, I can’t say thank you enough for helping this 18-year-old Husky grow into a father, husband and adult. Seattle will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Relief help with roster moves
With multiple relievers unable to pitch Monday night due to usage in the Cleveland series, including Sunday’s bullpen start which resulted in a 3-2 victory, the Mariners selected the minor-league contract of right-hander Brady Lail from Class AAA Tacoma to provide some bullpen depth.
Lail, 27, has made four relief appearances, posting a 1.50 ERA with two walks and seven strikeouts in six innings.
To make room for Lail on the active roster, infielder Jack Mayfield was optioned back to Tacoma after spending two days with the team and not appearing in a game.
Seattle also needed to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Lail. Right-hander Domingo Tapia was designated for assignment for that spot. The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright Tapia. With a high 90s sinking fastball and some MLB experience, Tapia could likely be claimed off waivers by a team in need of bullpen depth.