Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Around the M's Bullpen 

After yesterday's report on catchers, I thought I'd go around the Internet, and gather up several articles to see how our bullpen was doing in the early days of Spring.

Rafael Soriano as the next Mariano Rivera
Much offseason discussion has centered around how the Mariners have blocked Rafael Soriano from moving into the rotation, and what a disservice they are doing to Soriano. I mean, just look at his 0.21 ERA as a starter for Licey in Winter Ball. According to John Hickey's article, Strikeout changed Soriano's Career, Rafael would prefer to remain in the bullpen and the M's are willing to let him.

Quotes from Rafael include "I just feel comfortable there. I want to be a closer, but I'll do anything they want." and "I want to be like Mariano Rivera." . So, it looks like Rafael is in his comfort zone as a reliever and wants to follow the Mariano Rivera career path. Melvin indicates (in this Larry Larue piece)that Soriano will likely get chances to close this year. "Eddie Guardado is our closer, but on nights he can't go, I'd have no problem using Rafael to close a game."

Last year, Soriano started in the minors in anticipation of him moving up to be the M's rotation when needed. As it turned out, the Mariners did not need a starter all season as miraculously, the Mariners only used 5 starters all of last year. But the Spring Training thought was to make him a starter. "If we were going to need another starter last year, Soriano was going to be the guy, which is one reason he didn't make the club last spring," Melvin said. "When he did come up, he was absolutely dominant. He has other pitches, but if he has to, he can go with nothing but fastballs and know he can get away with them.

So, for now, Rafael Soriano will remain in the bullpen and will see the critical 6th-7th-8th inning work that Mariano Rivera used to see while setting up John Wetteland in 1995. But it will be interesting to see where his immense talent takes him, and what the M's do if a starting pitcher gets a serious injury or is traded. Ron Villone and Kevin Jarvis may be the first options, but lets face it... if Jarvis impresses at all, the M's will look to deal him while his perceived value is high. Villone is a better bet, but does not have a long track record of success as a starter.

My guess is that M's management would still like to see Soriano as a starter, but are prepared to keep him as a reliever while they have a wealth of starters. The fact that they let him start throughout Winter League supports this theory, but only time will tell, as the M's are not about to start talking about Soriano as a starter while there is no spot available, and the M's have a lot of options in the rotation, but it sure is nice to have a dominant pitcher or two in the pen.

Mateo's Hard Work Pays Off
Bob Finnigan writes that its Julio Mateo that might be slated next for the rotation.

Indeed, had the Mariners traded Freddy Garcia, Mateo — with a good assortment of pitches, including a split-fingered fastball to get lefties out — might have replaced him in the rotation.

"No one said anything to me, but I heard some things," he said, with a small smile. "You know, I want to be ready."

Julio Mateo's story is the one that Bob Melvin used to inspire the young kids in camp who seemingly have no shot at making the big club.

"I was talking about what Julio did last year when I gave my speech to the players on our first day," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. "There's always a chance to be there, as he showed last year."

Julio Mateo and Bob Melvin both credit the way Mateo worked for getting him noticed, and keeping him focused in the tough role of spot reliever.

"They didn't have plans for me last spring. I knew that," Mateo said. "I came to work hard and make an impression. But it worked out, and I was with the team and then I had to keep working hard."

"There were times that kid went 12 days between appearances," the manager pointed out. "His bullpens became his games, and he threw them like that. Then he was ready when we needed him, and he kept getting better."

Everyday Eddie the Entertainer
Larry Larue introduces Eddie Guardado to us as a pitcher who has pitched in every role on the team, and found that his arm could bounce back quickly in relief appearances, and who thrived in the pressure of the ninth inning.

"The pressure of the ninth is that everyone on the team has done their job, and if you don't, you're letting everyone down. I've blown saves - it happens - and I will again. And every time, I'll apologize."

Guardado was the first player in the clubhouse on Saturday, showing up 3 hours before workouts began. And he showed off a side of a closer that Kazuhiro Sasaki never did, that they can give an entertaining interview.

"I began my career as a starting pitcher, and I'd never have believed it if you'd said I'd close one day," Guardado said. "I was a starter. Unfortunately, in my 25 big-league starts, I had three that were good - and that might be an exaggeration."

Forget "Ball Four", Give us "Strike Three"
Jeff Heaverlo is writing his autobiography. Someone should tell him that a Blog would get him instant readership as well as feedback on his writing style, and build his baseball fanbase considerably. Then again, it could just get him into hot water. Imagine if 'Ball Four' had been written as a blog. Jeff reminds us why clubhouse chemistry IS important in baseball.

"My mom has worked for Boeing for years and she likes her job, likes the people she works with, but it's not family. This is family, and that's part of what makes it unique."

Another burgeoning writer is 2004 Opening Day Starter Jamie Moyer, who is writing a series of guest columns for MLB.com during Spring Training. His first entry revisits his first big league camp with the Cubs in 1987. The difference between then and now?

I don't feel I am fighting for a job; I am working to get myself in shape. The mindset is a little bit different, but the work ethic is still there. I know I still have to work, but I am a little more relaxed now because I have some experience and have been around a little while. I get a little more leeway than a rookie.

Sidewinder Spotted in Arizona
The Go2Guy give us a fun article on Mike Myers sidearm and sometimes submarine delivery. I love watching sidearm pitchers. It just looks so unnatural, yet its so much easier on your arm. When projecting who will be the LOOGY (Lefty One-Out Guy) in the M's pen, keep in mind that Mike Myers has a clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent if the Mariners haven't decided to keep him on the roster by March 30.

George Sherrill's Road Show
Bob Finnigan's latest about George Sherrill (and a little on Bobby Madritsch) was probably inspired this former Goldeyes gone good article from the Winnipeg Sun. (Thanks to Jeff at San Shin for finding it for both of us)

Finnigan's article gives a nice overview of George Sherrill's career and his 2003 season that began in Winnipeg until he was signed by the Mariners and moved to San Antonio for AA, then on to the Arizona Fall League, and Winter League stops in Puerto Rico and Lara.

But the Winnipeg Sun has the following quotes from Sherrill...

"I've seen it reported that (pitching coach Mike Price) called me a 'sleeper.' Well, that's nice to hear. Now, I'm not one to put too much stock in what I hear from others, but at least my name's out there. ... There's 59 players here and I don't want to be the 59th guy, if you know what I mean."

"Mr. Price has already told me I'll get ample opportunity to go out and get my innings here. It's hard to put into words what this all means to me. But let's just say this -- I plan on making the most of it."

"It could very well come down to Bobby (Madritsch) and I fighting it out for that final spot."

You've come a long way, Georgie...

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