The Mariners bullpen got a little older and a little younger at the same time Friday afternoon with more roster shuffling to a unit that has been racked by injuries, inexperience and inconsistency.
The Mariners made the following moves:
- Aaron Fletcher, LHP, selected from alternate training site.
- Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP, reinstated from injured list.
- Taylor Guilbeau, LHP, placed on the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder strain.
After placing right-handed reliever Erik Swanson on the 10-day injured list before Thursday’s game, the Mariners had an open spot on the active roster that needed to be filled. With Daniel Vogelbach designated for assignment, there was an open spot on the 40-man roster which allowed them to select Fletcher’s minor league contract and add him.
Fletcher, 24, was acquired at the major league trade deadline last season from the Washington Nationals along with Guilbeau in a trade that sent Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland to D.C.
Rated as the No. 21 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline and No. 24 by Baseball America, Fletcher throws from ¾ to sidearm angle from the left side with mid-90s velocity and sinking movement on his fastball and a slider that makes it tough on left-handed hitters.
Mariners’ top prospect Jarred Kelenic recently said in an interview on ESPN 710 AM that he’s hitless in more than a dozen plate appearances vs. Fletcher during intrasquad games this years.
“When he goes out there, that’ll be his major league debut,” M’s manager Scott Servais said in a pregame video conference. “And we’ve had a few of those here in the last couple years. He’s an interesting young left-hander. He’s got good stuff. He’ll be hyped up just like all the young guys are when they get out there. So I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
Hirano, 36, was signed this past offseason to a one-year, $1.6 million contract to provide a veteran presence in a bullpen that was expected to light on MLB experience. He spent the last two seasons pitching for the Diamondbacks, posting a 9-8 record with a 3.45 ERA in 137 relief appearances with 120 strikeouts and 45 walks in 119 1/3 innings.
“It’ll be nice to get him out there,” Servais said. “He’s been through the wars before. He understands how to make pitches and make adjustments throughout the course of an inning. We have to wait and see how the ball is coming out of his hand. Everybody knows Hirano, it’s the fastball with the split. He’s got very good numbers against left-handed hitters throughout his career as well. So it’d be a nice weapon to have down there once we get him up and going fully at hundred percent.”
Hirano has been on the COVID-19 injured list since the first days of summer camp. He tested positive in Arizona on July 25 and was ill, dealing with a temperature over 103 degrees for multiple days and other symptoms. He was unable to workout for an extended period of time which delayed his return. When he was cleared to resume activity, he remained in Arizona and worked out at the team’s facility in Peoria. He recently returned to Seattle and had been working out at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma with the other players not on the active roster. But he was unable to pitch in an intrasquad game as hoped.
“We were hoping to get him a little bit more exposure down there, but it was the combination of weather and schedule everything else and we didn’t,” Servais said. “We thought that with the injuries we’ve had here and he’s ready to go, so we’ll activate him. You probably won’t see him out there in the eighth inning of a tight game. We’ll try to get him a little bit softer landing if we can.”
Guilbeau, 27, pitched in Thursday’s loss, facing two batters. He’s bounced around from the Mariners bullpen, the taxi squad and the alternate training site this season. But perhaps a sign of the shoulder issues is the decreased velocity on his pitches. His fastball averaged 94.6 mph last season and is down to 90.1 mph in his MLB appearances this season.
The Mariners did get good news about Swanson, who was diagnosed with a Grade 1 forearm strain.
“He feels relieved,” Servais said. “Swanny may even play catch today. He could be back in five or six days. I don’t know about Guilbeau yet.”
Moore a late scratch
Dylan Moore was a late scratch from Friday’s starting lineup due to a sore wrist.
“He did it on a swing in the ballgame yesterday, and he felt it later in the game,” Servais said. “I don’t think it’s anything too serious. But also, you want to take precautions. He did not feel like he would be ready to go tonight, so we’ll make an adjustment.”
Moore was supposed to start at first base in place of Evan White, who is nursing a deep contusion on his knee after fouling a ball off it on Wednesday. White did participate in the Mariners’ full workout before Friday’s game. He moved well while taking ground balls, but there were moments where he favored the knee.
“Evan’s feeling better today,” Servais said. “I think he is available late in the game if we need him. We just wanted to give him another day to get it calmed down.”