Scott Servais sat at the dinner table with Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Jean Segura in the Dominican Republic. Mariners new reliever, right-hander Juan Nicasio joined them.

The Mariners’ manager traded some pleasantries with Nicasio until getting down to business. And Servais was more than pleasantly surprised by the 31-year-old’s response.

“I threw out a, ‘Juan, glad to have you. Excited to get you in the bullpen,’ and this and that,” Servais recalled. “ ‘Just keep in mind we might need you to get some four- and five-out appearances.’ ”

Nicasio, according to Servais: “No problem. I pitch every day.”

Servais laughed.

“I was like, ‘Thank you!’ ” he said. “ ‘Sounds great to me.’ ”

The gist?

Nicasio will fit right in.

And his addition, bringing his 96 mph fastball and hard slider that made him an admirable reliever for the Pirates, Phillies and Cardinals last season – leading the National League with 76 relief appearances – makes this projected 2018 Mariners’ bullpen maybe one of the deepest they’ve had in years.

Nicasio gives them four power arms at their disposal in the final innings — alongside right-handers David Phelps and Nick Vincent and closer Edwin Diaz.

They return six of their top seven most-used relievers from last season, and that doesn’t include Phelps.

He pitched 8 2/3 innings for the Mariners after the July 20 trade from Miami because he spent two stints on the disabled list, including undergoing season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur on Sept. 13.

“Once we acquired David Phelps last year I loved our bullpen,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “Unfortunately when Phelpsy when down, it changed things. We put a little bit more workload on the other guys and we came up a little bit short at the end because we weren’t quite deep enough to get there. So it’s one of the things we’re trying to address this offseason.”

And they expect Diaz to improve.

Just look at what the soon-to-be 24-year-old flamethrower did at home compared to on the road:

Road games: 35 appearances, converted 25 of 27 save opportunities (92.6 percent), 1.24 ERA, 54 strikeouts, .106 opponent batting average. His 25 saves on the road led the major leagues – and that came after he allowed three runs in 2/3 of an inning in his first road appearance.

Home games: 31 appearances, 5.76 ERA, nine saves, 35 strikeouts, .265 opponent batting average. Teams were slugging .504 against him at home … and .171 on the road.

The Mariners chalk that up to that being his first full big-league season, and not as much pressure on the road.

The Mariners’ bullpen ranked 13th in the major leagues in earned-run average (4.08) in 2017 despite the team’s revolving door of starting pitchers.

They used 40 total pitchers last season – tied for most in major league history – and Mariners relievers had to pitch 569 2/3 innings – second most by a bullpen in club history, trailing only the inaugural season of 1977.

The team says that is why Nick Vincent tailed off late in the season. He set career-highs in games (69), innings (64 2/3) and holds (29), which was the second-most in the major leagues behind Taylor Rogers’ 30.

He simply fizzled out from fatigue. Vincent had a 1.87 ERA (12 ER in 57 2/3 innings) with 26 holds and 44 strikeouts in his first 60 games. He was 0-2 with a 14.14 ERA (11 ER in seven innings) over his final nine outings.

“No one seems to notice Nick Vincent,” Dipoto said. “And Eddy Diaz will only get better. We like our group.”

Which is why he sought a bullpen upgrade over a starting pitcher this offseason, picking up Nicasio on a two-year, $17 million deal as the headliner.

But Dipoto looks at the baseball landscape and the former reliever said he sees the trend surging — that teams are looking to upgrade their bullpens over the starting rotation.

He’s said the Mariners could use a six-man rotation for portions of the season, based on the circumstances, and they are leaning toward a 25-man roster that includes 13 pitchers.

Dipoto also added relievers Shawn Armstrong, Chasen Bradford, Sam Moll and Nick Rumbelow, to go with Diaz, Vincent, Phelps, Marc Rzepcynski and Tony Zych.

“We went into the offseason with a laundry list of things we wanted to address and we addressed those things,” Dipoto said. “I’ve heard from a number of different people who think we should tear down and rebuild. There are a number of teams in baseball, let’s call it 10 or 12, who are tearing down and rebuilding. You could argue that you are going to compete with more clubs to try to get the first pick in the draft than to try to win the World Series. There’s an element to that. There are a number of teams not interested in signing players who can help them win. They’d like to go the other way.

“You have a number of teams built up to what we now reference as super-team status. They might need to fill holes. Which leaves a team in the middle, 8-12 teams, of which we are one, who are surfing through the markets.”

0
0
0
0
0

Load comments