HOUSTON — Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Logan Gilbert’s start to the 2022 season is that he has yet to have a game or stretch of outings where he felt he pitched to his expected level of performance.
On Monday, Gilbert was named the American League Pitcher of the Month after a stellar April that included a 3-0 record in four starts with just one earned run allowed in 20 innings for a 0.40 ERA. He struck out 22 batters in those starts while allowing 15 hits and just four walks. Gilbert walked just one batter in his first three starts of the season.
That one earned run came in the second batter of his first start of the season when Luis Arraez of the Twins hit a solo homer at Target Field.
“Certainly, it’s well deserved,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’s off to a great start. He’s pitching great. He’s in a really good spot, mechanically, mentally and kind of where his whole game is at. He continues to get better. We’ve certainly needed him early in the season, and we’ve got to keep him healthy the rest of the way.”
Gilbert knows there is more in him. He demands excellence for himself.
“I think that was kind of the story of the month,” he said. “I felt like most of the time I had stuff that was good enough to compete and just put an emphasis on that. But it’s also just feeling better about my stuff this year where maybe last year I would have felt really good with where I’m at. I made some adjustments in the offseason and now I think maybe I just have higher expectations for where I should be at and where my stuff should be.”
Those adjustments include reshaping his slider and curveball and refining his changeup with an emphasis on having them all look the same coming out of his hand.
A year ago, Gilbert had yet to make his MLB debut or actually pitch in a regulation game. With the minor league season delayed by a month, he made one start with Class AAA Tacoma on May 7 and was called up a few days later, making his first big league start May 13. He made 24 starts for the Mariners in 2021, posting a 6-5 record with a 4.68 ERA.
That experience of navigating through games with certain pitches not working and making adjustments provided plenty of lessons.
“I think that’s probably the biggest difference so far this year,” he said. “Last year, when something went wrong, I wasn’t really able to find them during the game. I think I’ve been able to make adjustments in the game. Maybe I have two or three pitches instead of all four. It’s rare to have all four, but I think when I have a couple I can still do what I need to do.”
Gilbert is the first Mariners player to win AL Pitcher of the Month since James Paxton received the honor in July 2017 and is the 14th player in franchise history to earn the award.
Perhaps the only pitcher who was better than Gilbert was Miami’s Pablo Lopez, who was the NL Pitcher of the Month. He was also 3-0 in four starts while allowing one run in 23 1/3 innings for a 0.39 ERA. Lopez struck out 23 batters with four walks.
Lopez was once a prospect in the Mariners organization. He was signed as an international free agent as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in July 2012. On July 20, 2017, Lopez, who was pitching at Class A Modesto, was traded to the Marlins along with outfielder Brayan Hernandez and pitchers Lukas Schiraldi and Brandon Miller in exchange for reliever David Phelps.
Hernandez, who was the No. 6 prospect in the Mariners system at the time, was considered the centerpiece of the trade return. But Lopez, who made his debut in 2018, has been a solid performer in Miami’s rotation. He’s posted a 21-21 record with a 3.80 ERA in 66 MLB starts over five seasons, while accumulating 6.8 wins above replacement. Hernandez is no long with an MLB organization.
Phelps made just 10 appearances in 2017, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.12 ERA in 8 2/3 innings pitched. He went on the injured list Aug. 8 of that season with an impingement in his elbow. He returned for three appearances before being sent back to the injured list for the same issue, ending the season on the injured list. He never pitched for Seattle again.
Phelps underwent surgery Sept. 13, 2017, to remove a bone spur in his elbow in hopes of clearing up the problem. But the elbow issues came back during spring training of 2018. He suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which required surgery and ended his season before it started. He left as a free agent after the season.
The other April award winners are:
Players of the Month
- AL — José Ramírez, CLE
- NL — Nolan Arenado, STL
Rookies of the Month
- AL — Steven Kwan, CLE
- NL — Seiya Suzuki, CHI
Relievers of the Month
- AL — Jordan Romano, TOR
- NL — Josh Hader, MIL
With the roster needing to be cut from 28 to 26 players Monday morning, the Mariners optioned left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield and infielder Donovan Walton to Class AAA Tacoma after Sunday’s game in Miami.
Sheffield, 25, appeared in four games out of the bullpen this season, posting a 0.00 ERA in 4 2/3 innings pitched. He will return to a starting role with Tacoma, pitching out of the rotation.
“He’s got starting experience and he’s had some success here,” Servais said. “I think he’s in a good spot and trying to use this stuff a little bit differently. In the past, he’s always really relied on that sinking fastball and changeup while the slider kind of got away from him last year. We really put a focus on him throwing more sliders and getting that back into being a big weapon for him.”
Walton, 27, was recalled when Mitch Haniger went on the COVID-19 injury list April 16. He appeared in just one game as a pinch-runner.