Most of the uncertainty surrounding the 2010 Mariners is focused on the pitching rotation, and because of this there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about what the pen is going to look like.
Much like there is an abundance of starting candidates, there are a number of relief candidates. The M’s are most likely going to carry six relievers—probably a closer, a setup man, three middle relievers, and a long relief/mop-up guy.
Let’s assume for this article Carlos Silva is going to get another shot at the starting rotation out of the gate—and for the money we’re paying him, he probably will. So what’s the bullpen going to look like?
Chris Jakubauskas, Garrett Olson, or one of the other four or five rotation rejects
This spot is going to be tough to predict, as there are probably going to be at least four guys vying for one spot. Not only that, but we don’t even know which guys.
If it were to come down to Jak and Olson, unless Olson can seriously improve his command between now and 2010, Jakubauskas would be the best option.
He’s done a decent job of mopping up this season, and I don’t think there’s any chance of him being in the rotation next year. Either way, the Mariners shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone for this role.
Sean White, Shawn Kelley, Joshua Fields
White should be a lock given the way he’s pitched this year, and the same goes for Kelley if he’s deemed healthy.
The third spot is where it gets foggy. There are other candidates, such as Randy Messenger, Chad Cordero, Mike Koplove, to name a few, but I expect one of Fields/Aumont to earn a spot.
Fields probably has a better chance of being ready by 2010, but unless we trade Aardsma in the off season, he’ll probably be slid into a middle relief role for at least one season.
Setup: Mark Lowe
Lowe has pitched really well this year, and, assuming we re-sign him, he’s all but guaranteed himself sole possession of the setup role in 2010.
This year has been his best by far, posting a tRA under four, and he probably has the best stuff in that bullpen right now. Having an eighth-inning guy with a devastating slider and a fastball that can touch 100 is quite the weapon.
Closer: David Aardsma
Aardsma has gone from a journeyman reliever to a shutdown closer on a winning team in a matter of months. This season has breathed new life into his career, and assuming we don’t trade him between now and April there’s no reason to think he won’t be right back in the closer role.
He’s benefited from pitching at Safeco and with our insane outfield defense behind him, but he’s still been really good. That 3.43 tRA pretty much says it all.
Our bullpen hasn’t been very good this season, but you’d be surprised at how much of a difference losing a guy like Miguel Batista makes. The relief corps won’t be stellar in 2010, but look to be more than passable.
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