Right-hander Rob Whalen was optioned to Class AA Arkansas and left-hander Dillon Overton has been designated for assignment.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The spinning wheel of relievers that the Mariners have used to fill out their long relief role in their bullpen has stopped on a new name — Max Povse.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Mariners selected Povse’s minor league contract and recalled him from Class AA Arkansas. To make room on the 25-man roster, right-hander Rob Whalen, who pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday, was optioned to Class Arkansas. To clear space on the 40-man roster, left-hander pitcher Dillon Overton, who has spent most of the season with Class AAA Tacoma, has been designated for assignment.
Povse was informed by Travelers manager Daren Brown on Saturday evening.
“He called me into the office and was giving me a hard time about my game charts because I was up charting in the stands,” Povse said. “He was asking me all these questions. And then he gave me the news. I think I blacked out. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
It only got better when he called his father, Max, shortly thereafter to tell him the big news.
“Happy Father’s Day to him,” Povse said. “He’s been there for so much and I wanted to tell him. It was an unbelievable phone call.”
A starter for most of his career, Povse will pitch out of the bullpen for Seattle. But his role isn’t necessarily defined as the mop-up long reliever — a spot where pitchers have ridden the shuttle back and forth from the Mariners to the minors all season.
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“He would be a guy that we could use in multiple innings out of the bullpen since his stuff has spiked up in the shorter outings,” manager Scott Servais said. “I don’t know that if he will be the traditional long man. He certainly is today if we have an issue, but hopefully we can settle in with our staff and get longer outings from our starters.”
Acquired along with Whalen in the offseason from the Braves, Povse was stellar in spring training and impressed the coaching staff with his ability to use his 6-foot-7 frame to get downward plane on his pitches and induce ground balls. After a solid start with Arkansas, a hamstring injury put him on the disabled list. He made eight starts and one relief appearance, posting a 3-2 record with a 3.46 ERA.
About a month ago before the hamstring issues put him on the DL, the Mariners decided to try to convert Povse to a reliever, shortening his outings to see if his velocity ticked up. It was something that stemmed from Povse’s spring training where he looked so sharp. In those shorter outings, his velocity bumped up to touch 96 mph. General manager Jerry Dipoto began to envision Povse being similar to Chris Devenski — the ultra versatile and effective reliever for the Astros, who can pitch multiple innings. With starters like Christian Bergman, Sam Gaviglio, Yovani Gallardo and even Hisashi Iwakuma often struggling to get through the sixth inning or face hitters a third time, an effective reliever that can bridge to the seventh inning could be useful.
“It’s huge,” Servais said. “You’ve seen us do that at times with James Pazos. The value of that guy when you have starters that are struggling to get through the sixth inning is huge. A number of teams have done it. Devenski stands out. The Astros use him in higher leverage roles in games that they are tied or slightly ahead in the fifth inning and letting him run for two or three innings. When you do that, you know he’s going to be down for a couple of days. But you hope your starters can absorb innings and let that guy recuperate and he’s available again.”
Povse has embraced the conversion.
“I’m excited for it,” he said. “It’s what they see for right now as giving me a chance to be successful in the big leagues. I’m going to do everything I can to make that come true.”