Mariners, White Sox go with young starters (May 18, 2017)
SEATTLE — What does a team do when its closer loses his ability to close?
And when the committee approach blows a save its first time out, allowing five ninth-inning runs?
That is the quandary facing Seattle manager Scott Servais as the Mariners open a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday at Safeco Field.
The White Sox are 0-3 on their 10-game trip, having been swept by the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mariners dropped right-hander Edwin Diaz from the ninth-inning role after he allowed a walk-off homer to Toronto’s Kevin Pillar on Sunday, then he came into the game Monday with a three-run lead against Oakland and walked four consecutive batters.
“It’s not like he’s been a closer for 10 years and a multiple-time All-Star and you tell him he’s not the closer,” Servais said. “He’s a 23-year-old.”
Servais said Diaz would be used in less pressure-packed situations until he can regain his form.
“What you saw (Monday) was a young pitcher who didn’t have a good feel and didn’t know how to figure it out,” Servais said. “We’ve got to give him some additional tools in his toolbox so he knows what to do when things go bad.”
The next day, Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. showed Diaz (1-2, 5.28 ERA) some video of Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who had a similar build and style to Diaz.
Servais said Diaz was “really down and disappointed” after failing to close out the Athletics. But the Puerto Rico native seemed to perk up after talking with Stottlemyre and watching video.
“That made me feel good,” Diaz said of being compared to Martinez. “I know I’m not pitching well, and I want the team to win. I need to fix my things and then I’ll be back to closer.”
Servais brought Steve Cishek into the Tuesday game against the A’s with a one-run lead in the ninth, but the veteran right-hander wasn’t able to hold it, giving up a two-run homer to Matt Joyce. It was just Cishek’s second appearance after offseason hip surgery.
“It wasn’t fair to put Cishek in that spot,” Servais admitted.
Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski, who hadn’t allowed an earned run all season, came on and compounded the problem, allowing a three-run shot to Mark Canha.
“We rolled the dice on it, and it didn’t work,” Servais said.
With four starting pitchers on the disabled list, the Mariners’ bullpen has been overtaxed. And with relievers like Cishek and Tony Zych coming off surgeries, Servais hasn’t had a full complement available.
“It’s been challenging,” Servais said. “We’d love to get Edwin Diaz back rolling to anchor the bullpen.”
The Mariners’ bullpen will likely be called upon for multiple innings again Thursday, as right-hander Sam Gaviglio (0-0, 4.50) is scheduled to make his first major league start.
Gaviglio, who pitched for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, made his big league debut May 11 at Toronto, allowing one run on two hits while striking out four in two innings. He hasn’t pitched since.
“I’m excited,” Gaviglio said. “It’s a good experience being up here, just doing what they ask of me.”
The White Sox will counter with rookie right-hander Dylan Covey, who will face the Mariners for the first time.
Covey (0-3, 7.98) generally pitched well in a 5-4 victory against the San Diego Padres on Saturday. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings, so he didn’t qualify for the win, but he struck out a career-high nine. He gave up three runs on five hits.
“I was getting tired of getting beat with my mediocre stuff,” Covey said after that game, “so I went out there and gave it all I had with every pitch. I would have liked to go deeper, but the pitch count was climbing a little bit.”
In his first six starts, Covey has reached the fifth inning only three times. However, the Saturday outing did provide optimism.
“I would venture to say the way he performed (against the Padres) was probably (what) everybody thought he had the capability of doing,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “We hope that’s something he can build on, but we’ll see. It’s one of those things where it’s a work in progress, and hopefully it’s something good and positive.”