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September 26, 2011 at 10:34 PM

Jason Vargas reassures himself and his team with solid win to cap strong month

Back when September began, Jason Vargas was talking about how he needed to figure some things out quickly because he kept getting rocked.
Then, he made a small mechanical twist in his delivery that enabled him to stay atop the pitching rubber longer. The results were pretty good the rest of September, especially tonight in a 4-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Vargas allowed just a run over eight innings to top the 200-inning plateau for the first time and reach the 10-win mark as well.
He struck out a career high 10 batters and finished with a high for the season in that category with 131. Not bad for a guy previously known as a back-end rotation type.
“It really seemed to help how the fastball was coming out of my hand,” Vargas said of the mechanical twist, which he actually began working on behind the scenes long before really unveiling it his final half-dozen starts. “That seemed to make everything else a little bit better.”
It could make his future with the club better as well.

We’ve mentioned for a while that Vargas will earn about $5 million in arbitration next season if the Mariners offer him a contract. For a while, there were legitimate doubts the team might not do that, especially when Vargas began a second-half fade for the second year in a row.
It’s one thing to pay $5 million for a 200-inning, No. 3 starter.
Quite another to a fifth-starter type who front-ends a bunch of big inning games in the first half, then comes apart down the stretch. Vargas worked hard this final month to show he’s more of the former.
“You look at his second half last year and talking to people, you want to make sure…you want to see him bow his neck and finish strong,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “For his own confidence, for next year and for his teammates and everyone to see that.”
There’s still no guarantee Vargas will break camp with the team next spring. But he at least made sure it won’t be an easy decision.
But if he can keep ptiching the way he did this month — and yes, I realize he wasn’t always facing top opponents — then guys who can throw 200 innings and deliver quality from the left side are not easy finds.
There’s a guy pitching for the Red Sox tomorrow in their biggest game all year who’s a pretty good lefty when he’s actually on the mound. But he hasn’t been close to 200 innings in a long, long time.
So, let’s not minimize what Vargas just did. But doing it and doing it consistently well are two different things.
Vargas answered some questions tonight and throughout September. The Mariners will answer some more this winter.



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