One and done?
That’s not going to work if you are a member of the Mariners’ bullpen in the 2021 season. The eight-man unit will be asked and expected to pitch more than just one inning an outing, regardless of their past usage or present preference.
With a six-man starting rotation, the idea of relievers being limited to just one inning of work doesn’t work. When selecting the pitchers who comprised the opening day bullpen, general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais looked for pitchers that were capable of pitching more than one inning in an outing.
Before Tuesday’s game, the Mariners have had lefty Nick Margevicius and right-handers Kendall Graveman, Drew Steckenrider and Will Vest have all had two-inning appearances while setup man Keynan Middleton has thrown 1 1/3 innings and even closer Rafael Montero was asked to get a four-out save in the first series of the season.
“It was by design,” Servais said. “You need to, certainly with a six-man rotation and eight-man bullpen there are those nights early in the season where guys may only give you four or five innings in an outing, and you’re going to have to extend guys out and pitch them a couple innings. I feel pretty comfortable doing it. Almost all of our guys could run out there and give you multiple innings, certainly at least four or five out, but give us a couple innings if they had to. And certainly with Margevicius, he can give us more than that if we need it.”
Steckenrider pitched two innings on Monday night. But he wasn’t expecting to do that as a part of his role.
“I really didn’t know what the plan for me was,” he said. “And I don’t think I have done that in a Major League game. It’s been a while. But after that quick first inning and just where we were at in the ballgame I was glad that I could go back out there and get three more outs and save someone coming out of the bullpen and keep somebody fresh for today. It’s a long season. I’m happy to do whatever role (Servais) wants me to do, wherever he sees that I can help this team get to the next level. If that’s going multiple innings. I proved yesterday that I’m capable of doing it.”
Steckenrider’s two innings in a 6-0 shutout meant that others would be available for the next two games.
“When you’re down in those games, if guys can take on multiple innings, it puts your bullpen in a better position the following day because you had to use one less guy,” Servais said. “I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is a big deal as it plays out throughout the course of the season.”
Steckenrider signed a minor league contract this past offseason with an invite to MLB spring training. But he has probably more relief experience than any pitcher in the bullpen. He made his MLB debut with the Marlins in 2017 and made 37 appearances, posting a 2.34 ERA. In 2018, he appeared in 71 games and served as the closer for a few weeks, notching five saves. The heavy workload led to injury issues in 2019 and only 15 appearances.
Kyle Lewis had no issues from his pregame hitting session in the indoor batting, according to Servais. He is scheduled to increase his activity over the next few days.
“He felt very good,” Servais said before Tuesday’s game. “He’s going to pick up his workout today intensity-wise probably do some plyometric stuff, some jumping and bounding stuff where he’s actually getting into the ground and then getting off it and seeing how he reacts to that. So today is another big day in his comeback trail. If he gets through today OK, then can take the next step which is some light running/jogging later this week yesterday. He’ll continue to swing a little bit in the cage and keep his arm activated.”