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January 11, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Mariners in class by themselves in majors when it comes to overhauling bullpen since 2008

One of our regular readers, Winnie Nicklaus, commented on the previous post and wondered whether bullpen overhaul is common in baseball and suggested what’s gone on with the Mariners might really be no big deal.
Well, it was a good question. So, I decided to research it. Yes, it’s true that baseball teams do overhaul bullpens quite frequently. But when it comes to the degree of transformation the Mariners have undergone since 2008, they are in a class by themselves compared to all other major league teams.
There is only one pitcher still in the organization who threw out of the Mariners bullpen in 2008 — that being Cesar Jimenez (Photo Credit: AP). He hasn’t pitched for them since, but is on the 40-man roster and has a shot at making the team this spring.
Still, he didn’t pitch in 2010. And that makes the Mariners unique. Every other team in baseball has at least one pitcher who worked out of their bullpen in 2008, did so again in 2010 and is still with the club heading into 2011.
All except the Mariners.

Not saying this is a good or bad thing. Only that it’s extremely rare. Usually, a team will have at least one or two youngsters they’ll hold on to for a few years, no matter how bad the club has done.
Obviously, losing 101 games in 2008 and 2010, plus the regime change from Bill Bavasi to Jack Zduriencik, caused much of the turnover.
There were a few organizations that came close to matching the Mariners. But all had at least one player appear in their bullpen in 2008, again in 2010 and still have those arms around going into the current season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, the team most associated with fire sales and massive turnover, has Evan Meek heading into the season as a potential closer candidate. Meek was 25 in 2008 when he made nine bullpen appearances for the Pirates.
They also have Jeff Karstens still kicking around, though he wasn’t in the bullpen in 2008. Karstens made nine starts that year, but in 2009 and 2010 has bounced back and forth between starting and the bullpen. So, we can’t count him since he wasn’t a reliever in 2008. Tyler Yates is a non-roster invitee by the Pirates this spring after pitching out of the bullpen in 2008 and 2009. But like Jimenez, he wasn’t around in 2010, so we don’t count him. So, one guy: Meek.
The Washington Nationals are another team associated with losing and turnover and they didn’t surprise on this list. I was able to find only two guys — Garrett Mock and Tyler Clippard — who were in the 2008 bullpen, stuck around through 2010 and are still with the team. Like Jimenez, these aren’t exactly household names.
Moving on, we come to the Atlanta Braves, who have Peter Moylan remaining from their 2008 bullpen. Moylan made only seven appearances that year, but was a mainstay of Atlanta’s wild-card winner last season with 81 outings. He’s second-year arbitration eligible.
The Florida Marlins have also had plenty of bullpen turnover, but Burke Badenhop is still around. Badenhop started eight games for Flordia in 2008, but also made five relief appearances. Last season, he was all bullpen, appearing 51 times. Badenhop recently avoided arbitration by signing a $750,000 deal with the Marlins.
Then, you come to Team Turmoil — the NL version — known as the New York Mets. They’ve had a ton of turnover, firings, dissension and collapses since 2008 and the bullpen wasn’t spared. Pedro Feliciano was one of the few bullpen holdovers, but just signed a two-year deal with the Yankees. The only survivor I could find was Bobby Parnell, who made six relief appearances for the 2008 squad and then bumped that up to 41 last season. Parnell remains in the mix with the 2011 team.
Over in the American League, bullpens have tended to be more stable. You find a lot more key members of 2008 squads who are still with the same bullpens. For certain, there has been turnover, but not to the degree of big names I found in the NL.
The Tampa Bay Rays are currently feeling the cash squeeze that a lot of smaller market clubs do and, as a result, their bullpen from an AL championship squad in 2008 has been almost completely redone. Grant Balfour is a free agent and if he signs elsewhere will be the last remaining relief regular to depart from that 2008 Rays team. But there are two bullpen holdovers from the 2008 Rays who did indeed make at least one relief appearance last season — even though both are now considered starters.
They are David Price — who helped lead the Rays in their 2008 playoff charge from a bullpen role before becoming a Cy Young contending starter — and the towering Jeff Niemann, who made two starts and three relief outings that year. Both Price and Niemann were credited with one game apiece in the bullpen last season.
No, it’s not much. But it counts. Other than that, unless Balfour signs with the Rays, they will have gutted their bullpen entirely, just like the Mariners.
The Angels have undergone quite the overhaul of a once-dominant bullpen. About the only names still around from 2008 are Kevin Jepsen , Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson.Scot Shields is a free agent and said to be leaning towards retirement.
The Mariners? Nobody who was in a bullpen role in 2008 and again in 2010 is still with the organization. Lots of media guides needed once again this spring.



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