ARLINGTON, Texas — Paul Sewald isn’t quite certain if the legend of “dad strength” is real.
Since he’s only been a dad for less than a week, he hasn’t experienced that moment where becoming a father has made him just a little stronger on or off the field.
Though he wants to believe.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I popped a five (95 mph on the radar gun) last night. That’s pretty good, and I don’t do that very often. So if I get a six (96 mph) then we’ll definitely know that the dad strength is real.”
After missing the weekend series against the Blue Jays to be at the birth of his daughter, Chloe, the first-time father returned Tuesday to the Mariners and picked up his fifth save of the season, working a scoreless ninth in a 3-1 win.
Despite last pitching Aug. 10, Sewald showed no signs of rust from the layoff. He shrugged off a leadoff single to Adolis Garcia, retiring the next three hitters in order. He threw a total of 15 pitches with 11 going for strikes.
It was another stellar outing in a season where he’s been the Mariners’ best reliever. In 38 appearances, he has a 7-3 record with five saves, nine holds and a 2.77 ERA. In 39 innings, he’s struck out 65 of 156 batters while issuing just 12 walks. Opponents have a .167/.231/.299 slash line against him.
Sewald did play some catch with his brother in Las Vegas while on paternity leave.
“I played catch couple of times with him just right in front of the house in the street like we were kids again,” he said. “No weighted balls, no getting a stretch in the training room that sort of thing. It was just like, ‘All right, let’s just go play some catch and stay in shape,’ because I knew the team was very generous, letting me be away for five days. And I knew when I came back, I had to go to work. I didn’t want to put our team at risk by not being prepared. So I just wanted to make sure that I was ready to go when they called.”
Sewald didn’t open it up and throw max effort to his brother.
“Oh no, I’m too old to not have to heat packs and the whole thing to get ready,” he said. “So it was a lot of lobbing going on, but it was just enough to be ready.”
The save vs. the Rangers was the culmination of a “whirlwind week.”
“I mean we’ve known it’s coming, and we knew that my wife (Molly) was going to be in Las Vegas and I could be wherever,” he said. “And that stretch of making sure I get on the first flight was coming, that’s been a little bit stressful for a couple months, unfortunately. You’ve just got to compartmentalize as much as you can. When I’m at the field and when I’m pitching, the only thing I’m thinking about is pitching. My wife did a great job of not making it any more stressful than it already is. She’s a champion.”
Already excitable and emotional pre-Chloe, Sewald’s excitement discussing his new role in life as a dad made him speak faster and with increased volume.
“It’s so hard to explain,” he said. “And unless you’ve been a parent, I guess there’s no other way to explain that it just changes your life immediately. When she came, the second she popped out, I just became a different person. It’s been so special and leaving was a lot harder than I was expecting it to be.”
Molly and Chloe will remain in Las Vegas for the time being. Sewald will try to sneak in some time on offdays in cities near Las Vegas, including the upcoming trip to Arizona.
Until then, it’s FaceTime.
“FaceTime has been going crazy,” he said. “Yeah, thank goodness for FaceTime, that’s pretty special. Although it’s hard to do it at the field. It makes me a little emotional. So we might have to keep that away from the field. But yeah, FaceTime has been very clutch the last few days for sure.”
Sewald has been unexpectedly clutch for the Mariners in 2021. He was one of a handful of pitchers, including Drew Steckenrider and J.T. Chargois, with MLB experience that they signed to minor league contracts and offered invitations to spring training.
After spending the 2020 season with the Mets, bouncing back and forth between the MLB club and their alternate training site, he was not tendered a contract for the 2021 season. He became a free agent and began weighing his options. Sewald whittled down 15 possibilities to three finalists — the Mariners, Blue Jays and Astros.
He chose Seattle over Houston, believing he had a better chance to make the big league team. The Astros had signed Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez in the offseason, which would make it more difficult to find a spot in the bullpen.
He didn’t make the opening-day roster. He had his minor league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma and was added to the active roster May 13. The other two call-ups that day — Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert — got all the headlines. But it’s been Sewald who has been more valuable.