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March 21, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Mariners bullpen could be in for a big surprise or two

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We’ve been sitting here in the press room today trying to bang out a potential 2011 bullpen for the Mariners. Think it’s easy? Go ahead and try it.
I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the whole thing.
My bullpen was going to be:
Brandon League
Chris Ray
Josh Lueke
Jamey Wright
Royce Ring
Aaron Laffey
David Pauley
There you go, right? A nice seven-man pen where you can mix and match lefties and righties on a short and long-inning basis. So brilliant and daring and…oh, wait.
I count one, two, three non-roster guys on there. Yup, three. That’s about one more than most teams like to take in any given spring. And that’s just for the bullpen alone. Yikes!
Throw in Adam Kennedy, that’s four. Ryan Langerhans, you’re looking at five.
Now, what if Miguel Olivo can’t make it back…
OK, forget that. Olivo is going to be there Opening Day no matter what. He can always sit out a few days to start the year while Adam Moore gets behind the plate.
Yes, Moore is going to make the team. The M’s don’t have any more roster spots to throw away.
Five is really pushing it. In fact, that may be too many. So, we may have to re-visit that brilliant bullpen.

You need to take an extra infielder and that’s Kennedy. And you need an extra outfielder and that’s most likely going to be Langerhans.
No room to switch guys around in the starting rotation. They’re all roster guys.
So, the only place left to do any swapping of non-roster guys with roster guys is in the bullpen. Otherwise, you need to come up with four additional roster spots. The M’s freed up one with Garrett Olson getting claimed on waivers.
So, which four minor leaguers would you give up?
First, I’d lose the Rule 5 guy. The M’s just don’t have the luxury of keeping Jose Flores. Not when Shawn Kelley should be ready by June and David Aardsma later in April. You will need to add those guys to the 25-man squad and Flores clogging that up as well for an entire season just won’t work in the longer term.
In the shorter term, you need his 40-man spot. So, he goes.
That’s two. You need three more.
You can put Mauricio Robles on the 60-day DL for his roster spot. That’s three. You need two more.
You can cut the Jose Lopez trade acquisition, Chaz Roe. Just don’t see him fitting.
So, who’s left? Who do you risk losing for zilch?
Cesar Jimenez? You hate to lose a lefty pitcher, even if you only see him as a AAAA type. They always make good trade additions. Losing them for nothing seems a waste.
So, I’ll submit that my bullpen is no good. Well, it’s good. It just doesn’t work in the real world of real rosters.
So, who in the Ray-Wright-Ring trio gets the boot?
Not Ray. He’s one of the only late-inning guys the M’s have with any experience.
Jamey Wright? Nope. You need a guy who can go multiple innings — like two or three — without being a typical long guy.
So, is it Ring, then?
Maybe. It’s going to be tough for the M’s to justify carrying two lefties in the bullpen when one is a non-roster guy.
You have Laffey already. He can go long and shorter. And most importantly, he’s on the 40-man roster. He’ll have to do.
Now then, who do you add? If you can’t specialize too much as a bullpen, you can always try blowing guys away.
Looking at the remaining arms, there’s one that jumps out at you as fitting that description.
Tom Wilhelmsen. He of the 97 mph gas and a six-year rest period with which he’s conserved some bullets.
Add him to the roster and you have the ability to throw plenty of late-inning heat at opponents between Wilhelmsen, Lueke and League.
Is it a perfect bullpen? Nope. I’m not sure it’s even a good bullpen. But with Wilhelmsen, you make the best of a very difficult roster situation. At least, that’s how I see it.
The impossible dream coming true? Just maybe. Forget Dennis Quaid in The Rookie. The next chapter of improbable real-life baseball dramas may soon be hitting Safeco Field in the flesh.
And no, it’s not as impossible as it may have sounded a few weeks ago.



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