OAKLAND, Calif. — This wasn’t how he planned for his rookie season to play out, but Cal Raleigh understood why his playing time has been reduced significantly in the final weeks of the season.
As a coach’s son, there was no reason for the Mariners’ young catcher to pout or sulk. There was simply more time to prepare for his next chance.
Finally making his first start behind the plate in the pivotal four-game series with the A’s, Raleigh ignited the Mariners’ come-from-behind 6-5 win with a two-run homer off Deolis Guerra in the fifth inning to trim the A’s 4-1 lead to one run.
It was Raleigh’s second MLB homer and his first since July 23, which also came against the A’s, at T-Mobile Park. It was span of 117 plate appearances and 36 games. It was a surprising drought considering the power he displayed in the minor leagues this season. But the transition to hitting big-league pitching has been difficult.
Called up just before the All-Star break, Raleigh has a .177/.217/.308 slash line with 11 doubles, two homers, 13 RBI, six walks and 50 strikeouts in 130 at-bats.
Over his past 13 games, he has a .114/.114/.200 slash line with just four hits (three doubles), no RBI, no walks and 14 strikeouts.
So snapping the homer drought, adding a double and just getting a start had to feel good, right?
“It’s not really about me,” he said. “At this point it’s about the team. I mean it felt a lot better than not doing anything. But it’s all good. It’s been a while. I wasn’t really trying to do much in the moment, I was just trying to get on base and help the team out. I ran into one, and it felt good. Hopefully I can keep it going.”
Raleigh understands why the playing time has diminished.
“It’s different,” he said. “You’ve just got to stay ready. … You’ve got to go catch extra bullpens. You hit off the machine to keep your timing. That’s the big thing, just stay locked in during the game when you’re not playing.”
Brash, Williamson unlikely options
If the Mariners decide not to start Yusei Kikuchi on Tuesday vs. the A’s at T-Mobile Park, the logical replacement would be lefty Justus Sheffield.
The more intriguing choices might have been touted prospects — right-hander Matt Brash or left-hander Brandon Williamson. However, neither is actively pitching for a team in the Mariners’ minor league system.
Both players went home after Class AA Arkansas ended its regular season Sept. 19, instead of being promoted to Class AAA Tacoma, which is playing until Oct. 4.
So it would make bringing up either pitcher to make a spot start in five days pretty difficult.
Brash, 23, was acquired from the Padres at the trade deadline in 2020 for right-hander Taylor Williams. He had a breakout season, moving to No. 99 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects. He appeared in 10 games for high-Class A Everett, posting a 3-2 record with a save and 2.55 ERA.
He was promoted to Arkansas in mid-July. In 10 starts with the Travelers, he had a 3-2 record with a 2.13 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 23 walks in 55 innings. Opponents had a .162/.249/.237 slash line against him. His last start was Sept. 16.
Williamson, 23, made six appearances for Everett, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.19 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 innings. He was promoted to Arkansas in late June and appeared in 13 games, posting a 2-5 record with a 3.48 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 23 walks in 67 1/3 innings.
But in his final four starts he allowed three runs in 21 2/3 innings (1.25 ERA) with six walks and 36 strikeouts. His last outing was Sept. 17.