Gallardo returns to rotation as Mariners host Yankees
SEATTLE — Shortly before the All-Star break, Seattle Mariners executive vice president and general manager Jerry Dipoto talked about his desire to add a starting pitcher.
At the time, he didn’t foresee it would come from his own roster.
Veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo is scheduled to return to the starting rotation and start Sunday’s series finale against the New York Yankees at Safeco Field.
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Gallardo went 3-7 with a 6.30 ERA in 14 starts before being sent to the bullpen a month ago.
He made 268 starts in the decade since his last relief appearance, as a rookie with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007.
In four games in relief, Gallardo went 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA and his first major league save.
“Yovani was sent to the bullpen and it could have been very easy for a guy with his service time and history in the game to pout. He dealt,” Dipoto said. “He was very convincing pitching out there and deserves another opportunity. Rather than go out in the market and overpay, why not explore what we have in house?”
Mariners manager Scott Servais said it was just a matter of Gallardo keeping things simple.
“He handled his demotion like a true professional. He didn’t get down,” Servais said. “He simplified things in the bullpen. Sometimes coming out of the bullpen you just say, ‘Here’s my stuff, hit it.'”
Gallardo hopes to keep that attitude against the Yankees, who have won two of the first three games of the series to pull 2 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners in the chase for an American League wild-card berth.
He’ll also try to contain Aaron Judge, who has homered in each of the past two games, nearly leaving Safeco Field on Friday night. Judge leads the majors with 32 home runs.
“It’s definitely a good feeling (to be starting). I’m going to go out there and throw similar to the way I did in the bullpen,” said Gallardo, who is 2-3 with a 6.47 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees. “I’ve been throwing the ball pretty good and feeling great.”
He agreed with Servais’ simple assessment.
“Sometimes we tend to get away from that a little bit. No matter long how you play, you’ve got to remember to play to your strengths,” Gallardo said.
Gallardo didn’t blame anyone for his banishment to the bullpen.
“For me, when it happened … I understood why the decision was made. It was a matter of making adjustments and keep going forward to get an opportunity (to start) once again,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I have to do to help the team win games, whether it’s starting or in the bullpen.”
The Yankees were scheduled to counter with right-hander Luis Cessa, like Gallardo a native of Mexico, but sent out a one-sentence e-mail late Saturday night that left-hander Caleb Smith instead would be starting.
It will be the first major league start for Smith, who made his debut out of the bullpen Monday in Minnesota. Smith took the loss in that game, allowing two runs on four hits in three innings. He walked one and struck out five.
“At some point it is a possibility,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Saturday’s game of the potential of Smith getting a start. “He’s been up to 100 pitches where the other (relievers) are around 40. Anything is possible.”
Smith, 25, will be coming full circle Sunday. After being selected in the 14th round of the 2013 draft by the Yankees, he was selected by Milwaukee in last December’s Rule 5 draft and dealt to the Chicago Cubs for cash.
The Cubs returned Smith to the Yankees in spring training and he went 8-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being promoted.