The Mariners optioned long reliever Casey Lawrence back to Class AAA Tacoma to make room for their new reliever.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — “Can we wear shorts for stretch?” “What do we wear for batting practice?” They may seem like unexpected questions with obvious answers, but for reliever Sam Tuivailala, everything about Sunday was going to be new and different.
It was his first official day as a member of the Mariners after spending his entire career with the Cardinals. After being acquired by the Mariners on Friday afternoon in a trade that sent minor-league pitching prospect Seth Elledge to St. Louis, Tuivailala flew to Anaheim on Saturday and was placed on the 25-man roster before Sunday’s series finale with the Angels. To make room, right-hander Casey Lawrence, who pitched 4 1/3 innings of long relief on Saturday night, was optioned to Tacoma.
“I’m happy that I’m finally here,” Tuivailala said. “I was super eager to finally get into the clubhouse, see the guys, meet everyone, that was my excitement. It was obviously tough saying goodbye to all my teammates in St. Louis, going through the system with all those guys and pretty much calling that place home. But I’m super-excited to be here. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Seattle. I love the city. I have family and friends there as well. It’s closer to home for me being from California.”
Tuivailala has former teammates in Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales and Juan Nicasio to lean on as he adjusts to his new team.
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“It makes it easier from a comfort standpoint,” he said. “I know Mitch Haniger a little bit too and even (Daniel) Vogelbach from facing him in the minor-league system.”
Tuivailala (pronounced “too-ee-vai-lull-lah”), 25, was 3-3 with four holds and a 3.69 ERA (13 ER, 31.2 IP) in 31 appearances with the Cardinals this season. He has posted 21 scoreless outings in his 31 appearances, while allowing one run or fewer in 29 of his 31 games. Right-handed hitters are batting .230 (17 for 74) average with just two extra-base hits (2B, HR).
“I have a pretty good fastball, but in this game, guys will hit the fastball,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. You have to have other stuff. I’ve developed my off-speed. I’ve got four pitches that I’m not afraid to use at any time. I use them on both sides of the plate. I’m going to come at you with four pitches and I’m going to throw them as hard as I can.”
Manager Scott Servais met with Tuivailala early Sunday morning to get know his new reliever.
“I’m excited to see him pitch,” Servais said. “He hasn’t thrown in a few days, so he will be available if we need him today. Biggest thing with anyone new who comes in like that, you have to let him get comfortable and not try to shove too much at him and try and get the most we can out of him.”
The expected role for Tuivailala is in middle innings, particularly when tough right-handed hitters are coming to the plate.
“Chasen Bradford has done some of that stuff for us,” Servais said. “And depending on how hard we are running some of the other guys and how he’s throwing, you could ride the hot hand. If we like what we see and he keeps getting guys out, we’ll keep running him out there.”
James Paxton had no issues with his lower back on Sunday morning and is slotted to start on Monday vs. the Astros to open the seven-game homestand. The Mariners will have to activate Paxton from the disabled list and remove a player from the 25-man roster. First baseman Daniel Vogelbach seems like a candidate to be optioned to Tacoma.
Servais said that there hasn’t been any plans to change up their starting rotation, but said he will meet with general manager Jerry Dipoto on Monday morning to discuss the situation.